Movie Review – 3 Days To Kill

Plenty of flair cannot overcome a wonky, slipshod family-in-crisis subplot, as McG’s spy-game genre entry sputters and stumbles through it misfiring trajectory. Worth a look for Costner’s gnarled, unkempt CIA operative slumming it in Paris, but otherwise this is a bit of a chore.


– Summary –

Director : McG
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Richard Sammel, Tomas Lemarquis, Raymond J Barry, Jonas Bloquet, Eriq Ebounay.
Approx Running Time : 117 Minutes
Synopsis: A retired CIA assassin is blackmailed into doing “one last job” for the company, hunting down a terrorist arms dealer through a series of his contacts. Along the way, he attempts to rekindle his relationships with his ex-wife and his daughter.
What we think : Plenty of flair cannot overcome a wonky, slipshod family-in-crisis subplot, as McG’s spy-game genre entry sputters and stumbles through it misfiring trajectory. Worth a look for Costner’s gnarled, unkempt CIA operative slumming it in Paris, but otherwise this is a bit of a chore.


3 Days to Waste.

Let’s face it: the spy/espionage genre has long since been run into the ground with cliche, making every effort by Hollywood to produce something actually thrilling or engaging something of an uphill battle. Perhaps the most excruciating sub-genre of this kind of film is the “one last job and I’m out” kind, where a grizzled old agent is forced to take the most dangerous, least exciting, or possibly the stupidest mission yet in order to quit “the business”. Yup, we’re talking Luc Besson’s bread-n-butter here, with the French producer/director/screenwriter once more essaying all manner of cliche and generic plot device into a film so middle-of-the-road I’m surprised lead actor Kevin Costner didn’t suddenly have white lines demarcating his body. Although Besson’s hand-prints are all over this thing, director McG is equally to blame for the faults and problems 3 Days To Kill has going on, for while it’s not the most original or entertaining entry into the genre going about, it’s certainly not a terrible movie.

Not sure which gun-themed joke I could put in here, so please do pick one of your own.
Not sure which gun-themed joke I could put in here, so please do pick one of your own.

Crusty old CIA assassin Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is given one last job for his country – locate and eliminate terrorist weapons supplier The Wolf (Richard Sammel), via contacts with the Wolf’s accountant, known as The Albino (Tomas Lemarquis). When the first attempt goes pear shaped, and Renner ends up in hospital, he is given the news that he has terminal lung cancer, and approximately three months to live. Returning to Paris, Renner attempts to mend his estranged relationship with his ex-wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and his teenage daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). However, the CIA – who had just “retired” him due to his ill health – recruit him again in the form of deadly female assassin Vivi (Amber Heard), who blackmails Renner into tracking down the Wolf by offering him an experimental drug treatment to prolong his life. Torn between wanting to give up the life of the CIA for time with his family, Renner reluctantly accepts, trying to balance the deadly work of an assassin with the more down-to-earth nature of being a family man.

One of those moments where fashion just fails.
One of those moments where fashion just fails.

Anyone who watches films for any length of time will be familiar, if not enamored, with the obliquely monikered McG’s work. Cutting his feature film teeth on the Charlie’s Angels remakes back in the early 2000’s, McG has since given fanboys much to wail about with his lackluster Terminator: Salvation, made grown adults weep for the fate of humanity with the execrable This Means War, and added a clutch of television producing credits to his name in the years since. 3 Days To Kill is yet another of McG’s sugary-sweet cinematic confections, heavy on shallow action and superficial emotive content, and badly lacking in anything remotely passing or enthusiasm or passion. Oh sure, this film ticks the boxes of B-grade espionage fare, and Besson’s trademarked career-vs-family high-wire act comes up for yet another turn about, and in some ways watching Costner grump through this Paris-set waste of time is superficially entertaining, but as far as a convincing or competent entry into the genre goes, 3 Days To Kill is mid-level rubbish.

Wow. Jealous, much?
Wow. Jealous, much?

The film’s mediocre plotting is aided thanks to some nice casting – Costner notwithstanding – in what is a largely forgettable series of characters. Hailee Steinfeld, fresh from Ender’s Game and True Grit, makes a convincing if unreliable “teenage rebel” daughter for Costner to (mis)handle, Connie Neilsen adds minor sexual friction as Christine, Renner’s ex, and Amber Heard is bafflingly silly as the extremely dangerous CIA assassin who uses Renner to do her dirty work. Of all the plot beats and characters in this film, it’s Heard who is the worst offender, her sexually aloof yet repugnant anti-social behavior making for awkward and disengaging moments whenever she’s on the screen. Heard seems to be channeling Angelina Jolie’s similar role in Wanted, although Jolie is streets ahead in making a nothing role like this actually work. Richard Sammel, as The Wolf, and Tomas Lemarquis, as The Albino, make for interesting adversaries for Renner to contend with, but in the end they are mere window dressing for the film’s more ready focus of Renner’s family crisis.

Don't cross-thread that silencer, dude.
Don’t cross-thread that silencer, dude.

Costner, meanwhile, seems reluctant to truly invest himself in the film, as if he’s only doing it for the paycheck – and perhaps he is – and he portrays Renner as the unshaven, unkempt, reluctant retiree Renner supposedly is, grumbling around Paris wanting to spend his few remaining days catching up with his family. Costner’s best Liam-Neeson-in-Taken impression isn’t enough to give this film any impact, however, and whatever star power Costner might have brought to proceedings is wasted with the piffle of a script he’s forced to peddle. Although he has a certain screen charm and relaxed affability, Renner never feels like a whole person, a well rounded character or somebody we grow to care about. His constant and impending cancer-related death is about as well-handled as dropping a bomb on a kindergarten, leaving viewers wondering just how bad a father he might have been had he not been given the Bad News.


3 Days To Kill is kinetic in action, stylish when the bullets fly, and has a certain charm that comes from the audience’s expectations of a film such as this, but looking back post-credits, there’s little to recommend here other than watching Costner shuffle about Paris doing his best to leave the film unscathed. Besson’s scripting is hokey and clunks to the ground with lead-like capacity at times, and the generic, blue-hued cinematography and contrived, coincidental nature of the whole thing feels like a join-the-dots adventure where he was simply ticking off boxes to accomplish a budget. 3 Days To Kill won’t offend, nor will it enthrall, but in a most minor of ways might entertain the more undiscerning audiences. The rest of you should just skip it.


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