I hate when petty stuff like having to reconnect with a long-lost daughter gets in the way of a job assignment. Academy Award winner Kevin Costner, Amber Heard and Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld star in 3 Days to Kill.
Director – McG
Screenplay – Adi Hasak & Luc Besson
Producer – Ryan Kavanaugh & Marc Libert
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a CIA lifer that has found out he’s got lung cancer and has 3-5 months left to live. He’s approached by fellow agent Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), who offers him one last assignment: kill two bad guys known as “The Wolf” and “The Albino”. In return, she’ll give Ethan $50,000, a $1 million life insurance policy for his family and, most importantly, a new experimental drug (one we’re supposed to just take Vivi’s word for it that it magically works) that’ll buy Ethan more time.
Speaking of Ethan’s family, he hasn’t been in touch with them for years. Of course, there’s always gotta be some teenage girl whining ’cause daddy’s been absent her whole life. Quit crying over spilled milk, will ya? While Ethan’s tracking down the Wolf and Albino and their associates, he’s also trying to mend fences with his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld).
This film should’ve been called 3 Days to Convince Your Daughter You’re Not a Deadbeat.
Director McG has a film resume that never impressed me. Really, the only film he’s ever done that I liked was Terminator: Salvation. Yeah, I said it. So sue me. We Are Marshall was somewhat okay. Regardless, though, whether you’re talking about We Are Marshall, his addition to the Terminator franchise or his huge blunders such as the bad Charlie’s Angels film, it’s even more horrendous sequel and that God awful movie that had Bane and Capt. Kirk fighting over Legally Blonde, McG’s never been known for subtlety. That’s evident when you see three completely different movies stick out clear as day within 3 Days to Kill.
Is this an intense spy thriller, a zany dark comedy, or a heartfelt film about a dad trying to win his daughter’s heart back?
The correct answer is somehow all of the above.
What starts off as an engaging spy thriller in the first 10-15 minutes soon shifts into personality disorder mode. Does this wanna be intense, funny or moving? Well, it wants to have its cake and eat it too by being all three. The funny moments, more often than not, are effective, and I was hoping it’d stay that way, You can excuse the film’s ridiculousness when it tries to not take itself so seriously. On the other hand, other moments prove to be quite jarring.
For instance, following that first 10-15 minutes, the film takes a yank the steering wheel hard left U-turn when Ethan comes home to find a family of mild-mannered squatters – who happen to have quite a home fashion sense – living there. What do they have to do with the movie? What do they have to do with anything? Hell if I know. Part of me wonders if they were even scripted and were actual squatters that managed to pop up in the shot, to which McG decided, “Eh – let’s just leave ’em in there.”
What sticks out even more like a wolf lounging out in the midst of a flock of sheep, who felt, “Hell with it. No wool disguise today.”, is Amber Heard as a Bond-esque type CIA bombshell. Don’t get me wrong. Amber Heard comes up to me and says kill or jump, I’ll respond who and how high. She’s just such a miscast here, though, and you don’t believe her for a second that she can run a successful spy operation. Heard has a quality and presence about her that has potential for success, but she needs to make better choices. Maybe she should consider firing her agent. Actually, she should’ve already done so after Paranoia.
Like last week’s RoboCop, this film also suffers from the lack of a central villain. Yeah, we get the Wolf and Albino, but they’re ultimately bland, cookie-cutter villains that don’t add anything intriguing to the mix and they definitely don’t make for a compelling conflict. In fact, this movie almost feels like the central conflict is Ethan’s daughter with a measly little subplot of him having to kill some baddies. Baddies that have to have their little, “I’m gonna enjoy this moment!”, speech instead of just killing the guy. Why? Well, so the protagonist can be bought a little bit more time to regain consciousness and kill the villain. That’s why.
All criticisms considered, this film isn’t a total train wreck, which McG is perfectly capable of, due to two reasons: Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld. They share a conventional storyline, the absentee father with a daughter holding a grudge against him (although we were spared the obligatory child kidnapping this time), but they work great together. The best proof of this is a bike lesson scene between them that has absolutely no place whatsoever in a film like this, yet they’re able to sell it. In lesser acting hands, we’d be rolling our eyes. It’s not always a hit between them, though. There’s one moment in particular that immediately recalled an iconic Costner film moment in my mind that didn’t work at all. Let’s just say I was waiting for, “… And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!”, when it appeared.
3 Days to Kill is certainly flawed, but I was still entertained at times. McG’s name on a poster doesn’t exactly get me expecting the Bourne series or Skyfall. McG obviously doesn’t know what type of movie he wants to stick with, most of the action sequences fall flat, and the lack of an interesting central villain isn’t a plus. However, I can appreciate Costner going all in here as the lead instead of just phoning it in, and his moments involving Steinfeld – both humorous and heartfelt – redeem this film from being a complete pile of crap. No need to rush out and see it. I’d wait until it’s available to rent and you’re in the mood for a throwaway action film night.
I give 3 Days to Kill a C (★★½).