3 DAYS TO KILL
2014, PG-13, 113 mins.
2014, PG-13, 113 mins.
Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner / Amber Heard as Vivi Delay / Hailee Steinfeld as Zoey Renner / Connie Nielsen as Christine Renner / Richard Sammel as The Wolf / Tómas Lemarquis as The Albino / Marc Andréoni as Mitat Yilmaz / Eriq Ebouaney as Jules
Directed by McG / Written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak
3 DAYS TO KILL is as odd of a cinematic mishmash as I’ve ever seen. It features Kevin Costner as the lead, director McG at the helm, as is co-written by Euro-action trash connoisseur Luc Besson.
times, all of these divergent pieces can be felt throughout the film, as
it frequently struggles with a precise and consistent tone to maintain
throughout (that, and as far as spy espionage films go, the screenplay
throws in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink).
Still, it’s 3 DAYS TO KILL’s inherent peculiarity that makes
the film oddly watchable and entertaining, and Costner – who seems to be
on a bit of a mini-career comeback as of late – handles all of
the film's preposterousness with a charming and straight-faced detachment.
Without his involvement, this film could have been potentially
unbearable, but with him it’s on solid footing.
film’s trailers, to its credit, did a rather brilliant job of hiding key
aspects of the film’s location and plot points.
Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA hitman that has devoted his life
to eradicating enemies in as clean of a manner as possible for the
interests of his country. After
a hit goes afoul – in the film’s wonderfully staged opening sequence
– Ethan discovers that he has inoperable brain cancer, which causes him
to black out at the most inopportune moments (not a good thing if you’re
a stealthy assassin). He’s given a lifespan of just three months, so instead of
continuing on with his clandestine life, Ethan decides to return home to
France and try to reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie
Nielson) and petulant teenage daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). Ethan’s main problem with his daughter is that he has been
an absentee paternal figure for nearly six years to her, which has left
Zoey with a deep seeded hatred of her dad.
conveniently (at least as far as plotting goes), the mother has to leave
the country for a few days, which leaves the dying and in-over-his-head
Ethan alone with Zoey. Complicating
matters to the extreme is the fact that the CIA does not seem to want to
let Ethan retire. One of the
agency’s most promising and determined young operatives, Vivi Delay
(Amber Heard, not entirely credible here) seeks out Ethan and gives him an
opportunity that’s very hard to turn down: Help her kill a couple of
terrorists, The Wolf (Richard Sammel) and The Albino (Tomas Lemarquis) and
she will, in turn, give him access to a new experimental medication that
will thoroughly extend his life. Now,
on any normal plane of logical reality, the steely-eyed veteran that is
Ethan would need more than Vivi’s word about the proposed drug, but he
very quickly agrees to the mission and jabs a needle of the high-tech
medicine into his arm without much hesitation.
Alas, the drug has side-effects, which stymies his mission, and
also makes re-establishing a loving bond with Zoey all the more
DAYS TO KILLS is a very silly movie.
Very silly. It
asks – nah, begs – us to accept all of its incredulous plot
developments without blinking an eye.
You kind of just have to laugh at the sheer eye-rolling absurdity
here, like the fact that Ethan – aside from the aforementioned drug side
effects – seems mighty healthy for a cancerous man that’s got nearly
both feet in the grave. You
also have to chuckle at the manner that he so easily allows himself to be
aligned with the mysterious Vivi, who’s played by Heard more as a
parading runway fashion model than as a lethally cunning CIA operative (to
her credit, though, the script fails the character in terms of developing
her). And speaking of
scripting, the extended subplot of Ethan and Zoey trying to rekindle a
loving father/daughter spark hits every proverbial beat in the cliché
book. Nothing that happens
between them is particularity inspired or original.
having said all of that, why do I like this film?
Well, even though 3 DAYS TO KILL is filled with narrative lunacy,
it never tries to hide behind it, as most of Besson’s European flavored
action pictures adhere to. You
simply reach a point where you just give up and give in to all of film’s
borderline ambitious nonsensicality.
Helping things considerably, again, is the reliably stalwart
presence of Costner on screen, whom at 59 has become more grizzled looking,
more tired and world weary, and perhaps a more interesting actor to watch
now. Rather slyly, he never
plays his role broadly or for easy laughs, but rather harnesses every
scene he occupies with a gruff, tough, and low key intensity and
straight-laced charisma that acts as an effective foil to the film’s
ridiculousness. His scenes
with Hailee Steinfeld – even though they operate on pure autopilot in
terms of its trajectory – still have a nice understated and immediate
chemistry. Steinfeld is an
unendingly natural screen presence, and she certainly does what she can
– like her elder co-star – with the material given.
one may not be heading in to see 3 DAYS TO KILL for his long
absentee-father/daughter storyline, but rather for its litany of
over-the-top action set-pieces, and Besson’s screenplay and McG’s
caffeinated – but not obnoxiously so this time – direction keeps the
most wickedly implausible action beats jubilantly afloat. Whether we see Costner effortlessly mow his way through
multiple European goons (pretty miraculous considering his impending death
sentence) or interrogate some of them, only to be interrupted by frequent
phone calls from his daughter (she sets his ringtone to Icona Pop’s “I
Love It/I Don’t Care” for frequently amusing effect), you
gain a steady appreciation that the makers here don’t take things too
DAYS TO KILL does implode a bit during its final act and gets a bit too chaotic
for its own good. I also kind
of wished that the film owned and manned up to an R-rating instead of
providing us with a relatively bloodless PG-13 carnage that seems a bit
too watered down considering the inane heights of incredulity this film
wishes to achieve. Yet, as far as deeply bizarre and out-of-left-field CIA
potboilers/Luc Besson-quarterbacked Euro-trash thrillers go, 3 DAYS TO KILL
agreeably gets its intended job the done with reasonably proficiency.
That, and it’s refreshing to see Costner back on screen, owning a
part, and leading the charge. After
solid supporting performances in recent months like JACK
RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT and MAN OF
STEEL, I welcome any mini-Costner renaissance on the silver
screen. He kind of proves in
3 DAYS TO KILL why he’s still a bankable movie star, as it sure takes
one to bring an authentic presence to an ape-shit crazy film like this.