By Richard Haridy
June 24, 2014
3 Days to Kill is an extraordinarily compelling film; unfortunately, in all the wrong ways. Several times over its strung-out two hours I stared at the screen, mouth agape, wondering what the hell I was watching. Directed by McG and co-written by Luc Besson, this is alternately a bombastic spy actioner, a morose drama about retirement, a jaunty comedy about a father and his rambunctious teenage daughter, and a comic-book thriller.
Kevin Costner stars as Ethan Renner, a CIA hitman who is “retired” after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live. Ethan returns to his estranged wife and daughter, hoping to spend his remaining time making up with them, but the CIA comes calling with one final job. The rest of the flick alternates misjudged “humorous” scenes with extremely violent, well executed action set pieces, as people start lining up to kill Ethan and his family.
The blend of wry domesticity and a secret life of violence is a particular trademark of Besson’s, and in his best work such as Leon: The Professional or La Femme Nikita, the tonal shifts are smooth and satisfying. 3 Days to Kill plays more like Besson’s recent The Family with Robert De Niro, an uncomfortable mash up of extreme violence and light comedy. McG is a competent but undistinguished director and on a scene to scene level manages some effective work; it’s when the feature is taken as a whole it comes across as an absolute mess.
Cast well against type, Costner does a surprisingly good job as a gruff, staunch assassin father. His gravelly voice seems to be channeling Tom Waits and while the role isn’t the game changing revelation it wants to be Costner does well to remind us he is a real movie star and keeps the picture from entirely falling apart at the seams. Amber Heard deserves a special mention as an insane caricature of a CIA handler.
3 Days to Kill is a frequently bizarre, never boring mash-up that doesn’t come together yet perfectly encapsulates everything both good and bad about Luc Besson’s recent output.
3 Days to Kill will be available from Quickflix on June 27, 2014.