Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld and Connie Nielsen
Screenplay By: Asi Hasak and Luc Besson
Directed By: McG
The best types of generic action-thrillers make up for their unoriginality by delivering mindless entertainment – 3 Days to Kill gets the mindless part down, not so much the entertainment. The film is an odd hybrid of CIA thriller and domestic dramedy, with neither aspect working particularly well. Aside from its uninspired story and lackluster action sequences, the film is also poorly paced and badly written to boot.
Kevin Costner stars as Ethan Renner, an international spy whose career in espionage has caused him to become an absentee father. Ethan is ready move on with his life and repair the damaged relationship with his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), but learns he is dying of brain cancer. The CIA offers him an experimental drug that may save his life, but only if he agrees to complete one last assignment. Of course, Ethan agrees – and over the next three days he will juggle the tasks of hunting down an international terrorist and trying to bond with his teenage daughter.
This actioner comes from writer/producer Luc Besson who is responsible for creating a new genre – the European set thriller centered on an aging assassin (see: The Family with Robert De Niro and Taken with Liam Neeson). Many of the films from the Besson factory are actually fairly engaging, but the inept script from Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak (From Paris with Love) doesn’t achieve a sense of popcorn movie fun this time around. The biggest problem with the screenplay is the focus on the father/daughter relationship which takes up most of the film’s running time. The CIA mission and gunplay are mostly an afterthought, set aside for a banal storyline that’s supposed to be heartwarming, but instead induces groans. This is one of the more glaring examples of filmmaker’s insulting the audience’s intelligence – made evident by the chuckles coming from the screening I attended during moments that were going for earnestness.
McG (whose name irritates me every time I see it onscreen) is a director-for-hire who clearly doesn’t have much passion for this material and it shows. Also unresponsive to the proceedings is Costner, most likely present to pick up a paycheck after Liam Neeson passed on the script. After some time away from the limelight, Costner is making somewhat of a comeback – most notably for his appearances in last summer’s Man of Steel and last month’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. In those films he actually tried something along the lines of acting, proving why he was a movie star in the first place. There are no signs of liveliness here as Costner mostly growls his way through the dialogue, often appearing to be half-asleep. Costner happens to be a talented actor, but it’s easy to forget that when he subjects himself to a third-rate thriller like this.
In the eye-candy department – Amber Heard shows up now and then, inexplicably wearing a different wig in each scene she appears in, as Agent Vivi Delay. Heard is way too hot to be believable as a CIA Operative, but at least that’s a fun casting decision – too bad she has nothing else to do in the movie but look pretty. Not that its her fault, but 17-year-old Hailee Steinfeld (a Best Supporting Actress nominee for 2010’s True Grit) doesn’t get the chance to convey her award worthy status – with both her lack of character development and lack of chemistry with Costner.
Dark comedy is also thrown in for good measure, with a couple of decent interrogation scenes where Costner has to abduct/torture bad guys while talking to his daughter on the phone about such things as cooking recipes. Had the entire tone of the movie been darkly funny, this might have worked – but the constant attempts to be heartfelt and the onslaught of watered down PG-13 violence prevent the film from even servicing as a guilty pleasure.
With a script that sidelines action/intrigue for an ineptly told relationship drama, this thing is an absolute mess and not in any enjoyable or endearing way – just a simple wreck of a movie. Even if you have two hours to kill – there are bound to be countless better ways to spend your time than seeing 3 Days to Kill.