I really think that co-writer Luc Besson and director McG really wanted to make a full blown action comedy here with 3 Days to Kill but just couldn’t commit. How else do you explain how many funny moments are thrown in around the standard issue spy stuff? They make Kevin Costner a bad ass in one scene (they even overtly call him that at one point), but then have him making a hostage give his daughter a recipe for spaghetti sauce. It’s that sort of tonal inconsistency that makes this too uneven a film to recommend, even while at the same time making it a weirder and more fun experience than I expected. This is a movie that more or less is the definition of a mixed bag, so while it’s not quite thumbs up worthy, it’s probably better than it has a right to be. Besson hasn’t really been coming up with the most interesting flicks of late, so it’s nice to see that this is something a little different from him. As for McG, it’s a respectable effort from a filmmaker that often comes up lacking. If you’ve been longing to see Costner in a lead role again, this isn’t a bad outing, but 3 Days to Kill is stuck between genres and suffers a bit for it.
When we first meet Ethan Renner (Costner), he’s a secret agent with a bad cough, so we all know what that means. After an encounter with villains The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis) and The Wolf (Richard Sammel), we jump forward a bit to find Ethan basically retired and waiting out his final days. He wants to reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld), but then government operative Vivi (Amber Heard) comes along. She wants him to finish the job and kill The Wolf, and in return she’s willing to provide Ethan with some experimental medication that might prolong his life. From there, he begins hunting The Albino, knowing that he’ll lead him to The Wolf, all the while building up a new relationship with Zooey while Christine is away on business. What follows is an interspersed mix of action sequences and comedic moments that find Ethan either killing or struggling with parenthood. The action scenes are solidly done and most of the comic moments are effective, but they just don’t mix in as good as way as they could, especially considering how the film comes to an end.
While none of the acting is particularly noteworthy here, I will say that it’s good to see Kevin Costner get a leading man role again. He brings a very effective bit of world weariness to the part, but even he seems unsure at times what sort of a movie he’s in. Costner does what he can here, for sure, but he definitely could have used a little clearer of a script. With a more conclusive focus on action or comedy, he would have been able to shine. Hailee Steinfeld suffers here from a part that’s written to be far more annoying than it needs to be, though she holds her own. Amber Heard mostly has to vamp it up and be in the right place at the right time a lot, and she’s certainly up to the task. As for Connie Nielsen, well…she’s pretty much wasted. The other supporting roles include the aforementioned Tómas Lemarquis and Richard Sammel, along with the likes of Marc Andréoni, Jonas Bloquet, Eriq Ebouaney, and Bruno Ricci, among others. This is clearly Costner’s movie though, and he does his part. If only the film itself was able to keep up its own end of the bargain.
As much as I disliked This Means War (which even further bungled tone), I did like what McG did with We Are Marshall, so I know he’s got some talent. Here, he directs more than competently, but without any real distinction. It’s the screenplay here by Besson and Adi Hasak that is really at fault. They have a cliche ridden action script (how many times does Ethan need to keel over right before catching the bad guy?) mixed in with a struggling father comedy and never commit to either. They turn out some solid scenes, particularly the spaghetti sauce scene, but it just doesn’t combine in a fully satisfying way. This is the type of flick that walks that line of being a good movie but never is able to get over it. Any sort of embracing of tone would have done this movie a world of good.
I found 3 Days to Kill to be an enjoyable enough film, but not one that distinguishes itself in the sort of way that would earn a recommendation. Had it either been a straight spy tale or a weird action comedy, I probably would have liked it better. That’s just me though. Especially if you dig Kevin Costner, you might like 3 Days to Kill. I leave the decision in your hands…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!