What do you get when you mix a feel-good family drama, an offbeat comedy and an action thriller with a terminally ill lead character? If it’s written by Luc Besson and directed by McG, you get a film so bad, so utterly preposterous, that it’s kinda sorta entertaining. Well, at least some of the time.
Like many of Besson’s scripts (last year’s “The Family”, most recently), “3 Days to Kill” doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, and while trying to cover too many genres at once never seems to have a firm grasp on any of the material. With McG at the helm, displaying that he’s learned very little from 2012’s disastrous “This Means War” (in which two lovelorn hitmen/best friends use their training and hi-tech gadgetry to fight over a woman à la Spy vs. Spy), and with some inexplicable editing choices by Audrey Simonaud, Besson’s inconsistencies are exacerbated to an almost terminal degree. We’re given a premise marginally less knuckle-headed than the aforementioned film here, though it’s similar in its failed attempt to balance comedy, action and drama, and we’re still expected to suspend our disbelief for unreasonable amounts of time even by genre standards. Some scenes work well individually, but “3 Days to Kill” is hardly coherent as a whole.
Kevin Costner plays CIA operative Ethan Renner, a career assassin who finds out that he only has a couple of months to live. After learning of his limited time, he decides to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) and wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) who reside in Paris.
Plug in heartfelt father-daughter reconnection story here: tough guy dad has no idea how to talk to daughter, she calls him by his first name thereby establishing him as a deadbeat absentee parent, and he uses a lot of outdated slang like “rad” to try to get back in her favor. Okay, now on with the action.
Enter Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), an unlikely company handler who recruits Costner with the promise of an experimental drug that may or may not prolong his life. His mission is to find and terminate a terrorist called the Wolf, who the higher-ups believe Renner might be able to identify having unwittingly brushed shoulders with him during a botched operation in the film’s opening sequence (a good portion of its relatively meager $28 million budget is used to blow up the top floor of a hotel).
Of course, Ethan must shoot his way through the ranks to get there, as well as jump into the father role when Christine leaves town on business, leaving Ethan to fend off horny Parisian teenagers and teach Zoey some fundamental things that he’d neglected to do when she was little (a purple bicycle plays a very important role in this dynamic).
There’s a significant flaw at just about every turn in this film, too many to name, and gaping discrepancies prove a more formidable hurdle than the two zombie-esque villains who are virtually absent until the final act (Richard Sammel as The Wolf and Tómas Lemarquis as his sidekick The Albino) in which a ridiculous coincidence wraps the story up by conveniently putting everyone in the same place at the same time.
But the film’s biggest problem is presented early on, when Ethan is approached by the all-too-sultry Vivi. Forget that she picks him up at a fruit stand, never shows any credentials, and looks like she just walked off the cover of Seventeen magazine (35 years with the CIA, and he doesn’t have the common sense employed by a novice bartender). The fact that she knows his name seems like all the convincing he needs to march into a hotel room and wax a few alleged bad guys. No doubt, Amber Heard is a terrific rising talent – “The Rum Diary” and “Drive Angry” are two films that, while not great, would have bordered on terrible without her. But she has absolutely no place in “3 Days to Kill”, adding only a confusing noir quality with a character that would be more comfortable in the surreal “Sin City”.
The film ultimately looks like something that was designed for Liam Neeson and then retrofitted for Costner – that is to say that most of Besson’s aging action heroes seem fairly interchangeable. Costner is moderately fun to watch in a few fight scenes nonetheless, and a bit more lighthearted than some of his contemporaries, with a few decent comic lines amidst a barrage of genre tropes. McG deserves credit for staging a pretty dazzling high-speed car chase through the streets of Paris, but that’s about the extent of it. I imagine your inner Costner fan/action junkie would be better served with last month’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit“, based on my co-writer Eddie Pasa’s review of it.