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New Review: 3 Days to Kill (2014)

Updated on February 23, 2014

Director: McG
Cast: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfield, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, Toms Lemarquis, Richard Sammel, Eriq Ebouaney, Jonas Bloquet

3 Days to Kill is an uneasy mixture of violent action, sappy drama, and black comedy. It's strange, how a movie that makes us cringe with a scene where a female agent gets decapitated by an elevator, will later try to tug at our heartstrings by having a terminally ill CIA agent try to reconnect with his teenage daughter by teaching her how to ride a bike. It's a disorganized and incongruent mess, and the "feel-good" epilogue the movie shoves down our throats feels especially unearned, given how much we've come to dislike the main character.

His name is Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner). He's an aging CIA agent, and in the film's opening scene, he's involved in a mission to capture the international terrorist known as the Albino (Toms Lemarquis). The mission fails, and Ethan winds up in the emergency room, where he learns that he's dying of a brain tumor that's already spread to his lungs. He retires, and decides to spend the remainder of his days back home in Paris, where he tries to patch things up with his nagging ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfield), who is so angry with him that she keeps calling him "Ethan" instead of "dad" (John McClaine's son did something similar in last year's Die Hard movie; It was annoying then, and it's equally annoying here).

His first stop is his apartment, which has been taken over by a family of squatters from Mali during his absence. Since Ethan can not kick the family out, he lays down a couple of ground rules for them, and actually threatens the patriarch of the family, a kindly gentleman named Jules (Eriq Ebouaney), with a handgun. There was really no reason at all to add the squatters in the film. No effort is ever made to do anything with them, and their final scene, where Jules invites Ethan to witness the birth of his granddaughter, is so phony and manipulative that it leaves you with a bad aftertaste.

Amber Heard's most exciting scene in the film.
Amber Heard's most exciting scene in the film.

Back to the main plot. Before Ethan can even begin to make things right with his family, he's approached by the sultry CIA agent Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), who's been hired to kill the Albino and his boss the Wolf (Richard Sammel), but decides to hire Ethan to do the job for her, in exchange for an experimental drug that'll prolong his life (and apparently cause him to collapse every time he's chasing after a bad guy) and a pricey life insurance policy. The Heard character isn't really given a whole lot to do except pose in a number of sexy outfits that make her look more like a dominatrix than a CIA agent. There are times where she disappears from the movie for so long that we forget that she's even in it.

The bulk of the film involves Ethan doing the job Vivi's hired him to do, while at the same time taking care of his daughter when Christine flies off to London for a few days on a business trip. At times, the movie brings to mind the vastly superior True Lies, although the results here are surprisingly unpleasant rather than amusing. Ethan kidnaps and tortures a couple of the Wolf's associates for information, and those scenes are played for laughs because (ho-ho!) Zoey keeps calling during the interrogations, and he often times solicits their advice about being a better father. The scenes involving Ethan and Zoey bonding are even worse. One second, they're enjoying a day at a carnival, and before you know it, Ethan has to save her from getting ganged raped at a nightclub (in order to get into the club, Ethan had to shoot the bouncer at the entrance of the establishment in the foot).

Occasionally, the movie dishes out a couple of action set-pieces, but as directed by McG, they're pretty uninspired, and are marred by a couple of gaping inconsistencies. For instance, Ethan rams into a car and sends it flying off a bridge. The driver is injured, but the other two manage to escape with barely a scratch or a bruise. Not only that, but the bystanders near the crash keep going about their business, as though oblivious to the incident that just occurred. Come on!

"So, Mr. Besson, I read that screenplay you want me to do!"
"So, Mr. Besson, I read that screenplay you want me to do!"

It's almost impossible to describe just how contrived the climax of this movie is. It stems from a coincidence involving Zoey's boyfriend Hugh (Jonas Bloquet) that is so massive that it's bound to make some scream at the screen "Are you kidding me?" Then there's that final scene at the beach house, which would be maudlin and hokey even if the Renner's were developed into people we cared about. 3 Days to Kill has an A-list cast, and is produced by Luc Besson, who has been involved in a couple of films that I really like (he wrote the script for 2005's underrated Jet Li thriller Unleashed). What went wrong here?

Rated PG-13 for violence (some of it quite graphic), sexual content, profanity

Final Grade: * (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :)

Cast your vote for 3 Days to Kill (2014)

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