Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, some Sensuality and Language
Directed by: McG
Written by: Adi Hasak & Luc Besson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Richard Sammel, Eriq Ebouaney & Tomas Lemarquis
Luc Besson is certainly an interesting guy in the film industry. He’s directed some great films in the past (e.g. LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL), but also had a hand in writing ridiculously entertaining action flicks (e.g. TAKEN, TRANSPORTER, LOCKOUT, etc). Some were more successful than others box-office wise and others received less than warm reception from critics. 3 DAYS TO KILL is one of his latest projects. Thus far, it has been doing a decent enough job at the box office and is being panned by most major critics. Instead of Besson taking the director’s chair on this film, McG takes the helm and surprisingly delivers a competent and cool romp. This far from the best action movie that will come out this year (personally, I’m holding out for THE RAID 2) and it has some problems, but 3 DAYS TO KILL is big, dumb fun that delivers what you’d expect from a movie like this.
Ethan Renner is a loose-cannon CIA agent who doesn’t play by the rules. After a mission gone awry, he’s diagnosed with cancer and has three months left to live. So Ethan returns to Paris to get his last affairs in order and spend the remaining days making up for lost time with his distant family. Being an awkward as both a bad husband and father, Ethan finds that catching up with his daughter and wife is more difficult than he was anticipating. Then he meets Vivi, another CIA assassin, who offers him an experimental drug to cure his cancer. The catch is that he has to work on a top-secret mission to take down an arms dealer known simply as The Wolf, all while juggling his hormonal teenage daughter and the disapproving looks of his wife. Wacky hijinks ensue that include lots of gunshots, explosions, car chases, and daddy time with his daughter.
I never really saw Kevin Costner as an action hero. He was good in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES and intimidating in MR. BROOKS, but I have never imagined him as a gun-totting badass (I have yet to see THE BODYGUARD though). Costner is surprisingly well cast here as Ethan. I bought into this middle-aged man shooting bad guys, taking names, and planting explosives. Although the film sports a PG-13 rating (which can be seen as a kiss of death for blood in an action movie, see LOCKOUT for further proof), 3 DAYS TO KILL didn’t need lots of crazy gore flying everywhere. This is more of a James Bond/Jason Bourne type of adrenaline ride, so that description should give you an idea if this is up your alley.
Hailee Steinfield (recently seen in ENDER’S GAME) does a good job as Ethan’s teenage daughter and doesn’t come off as too cliché (though there are a few sappy montages and typical teenager behavior seen in many other movies). Connie Nelson (the femme fatale in THE ICE HARVEST), despite getting top billing, disappears for a good portion of the story. In the film’s defense, she isn’t really needed much other for a familiar trope we’ve seen in many other stories. You may notice a trend in this review thus far. I keep comparing 3 DAYS TO KILL to other films. This is appropriate enough, because 3 DAYS TO KILL is just an entertaining mash-up of good pieces of other movies. In its own weird way, this is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a PG-13 action film. Normally, I would consider this a bad thing, but there’s such a good entertainment factor to this one. It’s not laugh at how stupid the film is, but laugh along with the film. This is a Luc Besson project and he always injects a self-aware sense of the movie knowing it’s a movie! In this case, it might be the cure for cancer and dealing with the homeless squatters in his apartment or Ethan juggling his dysfunctional family life with his CIA mission. This film never takes itself seriously and focuses on being a fun time at the movie theater.
On the other side of the coin, Amber Heard is horribly miscast as Vivi. She still looks like a young 20-something and doesn’t come off as remotely convincing. I know I’ve been saying that this movie is ridiculous and makes it clear that it’s just a goofy action flick, but I just couldn’t buy Heard’s CIA assassin or her sexual advances towards Costner (who looks old enough to be her grandpa). The finale is predictable beyond measure, but the same can be said about the rest of the film. This is a good turn-you-brain-off and enjoy the mindless violence (albeit nearly bloodless PG-13 rated mayhem) film. The never-ending sense of humor keeps things very watchable and enjoyable, which was a much welcomed part of the film. I genuinely laughed a lot and a couple of running gags kept cracking me up every single time they popped up.
The acting is good enough, with the exception of an unconvincing Amber Heard. The violence is silly PG-13 level fun. Kevin Costner does a good job being a badass assassin (of all things) and the film is thoroughly entertaining. It’s far from Luc Besson’s best work (LEON still holds that position and probably will for a long time to come), but it just might be McG’s best effort (for what that’s worth, I still need to re-watch TERMINATOR: SALVATION to make that a definite statement). Those who want a ridiculous and fun action film, would do well to check out 3 DAYS TO KILL. It’s a good watch. I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did and it might just surprise you too.