3 Days to Kill

Posted by Michael Parsons on February 26, 2014 in / 1 Comment


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.

3-days-to-kill-movie-poster-16-1Like 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daughter, she calls him by his first name thereby establishing him as a deadbeat absentee parent, and he uses a lot of outdated slang like “rad” to try to get back in her favor.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.

Film Review 3 Days To KillEnter 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 3_days_to_kill_1room 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.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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