Kevin Costner is making a comeback. He just gave a great performance in the last month’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (and I certainly hope to see him in more Jack Ryan films to come); he’s currently starring in 3 Days to Kill; and he has the worthwhile football-based comedy Draft Day opening in April. I’ve enjoyed two of his three 2014 flicks, but 3 Days to Kill isn’t one of them. Fortunately, he’s not the problem with the highly problematic movie.
The problems with 3 Days to Kill begin and end with its writer, Luc Besson, and director, McG. I’ve enjoyed plenty of Besson’s films – Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element and Taken – but the guy has churned out many more dud movies than ones you’ve actually heard of. Like his latest directorial effort, The Family, 3 Days to Kill is a tonally inconsistent train wreck.
Unlike Besson, I’ve only marginally liked one of McG’s movies – and, even then, I’m in the minority of those who didn’t think that Terminator Salvation was a complete waste. Being the guy who gave us the atrocious Charlie’s Angels movies, I give him just about as much credit as Brett Ratner. Combining McG’s directing and Besson’s screenplay was an awful idea. With Besson’s stories tending to need a good clean-up, handing the picture over to McG only locked in its sad fate.
The ads have made 3 Days to Kill out to be an intense and thrilling action ride … and they couldn’t be more deceiving. Costner stars as CIA super agent Ethan Renner, an aging assassin-like spy who has been so devoted to his job that his wife and daughter gave him the boot long ago. The opening sequence attempts to make him out to be a badass, but its so poorly filmed that it fails to do so. Instead, it shares the outcome of his character in this specific scene: just before Costner takes down the bad guy, he stumbles to the ground, sputters around and passes out, letting the bad guy get away. Any badassness that his character could potentially hold gets away as this sequence sputters about before collapsing.
After a moment, Costner wakes up in a hospital bed and we learn that he’s sick with a terminal case of rare brain cancer. His dying wish is to spend time with his wife (Connie Nielsen, Gladiator) and teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld, Ender’s Game), so he heads to Paris for his final months. Almost immediately after arriving, an attractive and unpredictable young CIA team leader (Amber Heard, The Rum Diary) recruits him for a few final missions to take down the villain who got away. Why she would pick a dying old man who just passed out on the job is beyond me, but whatever. Not wanting to kill anymore, he reluctantly takes the job because she offers to pay him with an unobtainable experimental drug that’s believed to be the cure for his cancer.
The plot up to this point isn’t bad, but this is where it completely derails. Coster’s wife heads to London for three days of business meetings, leaving him to take care of his wild teenager daughter – but he’s committed to killing bad guys over this time span. Both Costner’s character and the script have a hard time balancing the daddy-daughter sub-plot with the “three days to kill” main plot. Oddly enough, the wife is gone for three days, but he actually has more time to get the job done, so the “3 Days to…” in the title isn’t even factual. In fact, he doesn’t even kill the targets that he needs to kill over those “three” days – he lets them go! If the title was going to be factual, it would need to be “Several Days to Harass a Few People and Reconnect with Your Daughter.”
In the middle of the movie, there’s about a 20 minute period where the comedy and action blend harmoniously. The pistons stop misfiring and things start looking up, but that doesn’t last long. It quickly slips back into messy mode and continues to disappoint. I ultimately left the theater scratching my head and asking myself the rhetorical question, ‘What the hell did I just watch?’ Unless you have “2 Hours to Kill” and not a damn thing to do, I don’t recommend 3 Days to Kill.
Photo credit: Relativity Media