3 Days To Kill Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 02.23.2014
Kevin Costner's career resurgence continues...
*Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner
*Hailee Steinfeld as Zoey Renner
*Amber Heard as Vivi Delay
*Connie Nielsen as Christine Renner
*Richard Sammel as The Wolf
*Eriq Ebouaney as Jules
*Tómas Lemarquis as The Albino
Story: A dying CIA Agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment.
Trivia: This movie is based on a story by Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, Taken).
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Kevin Costner was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He was winning critical acclaim and awards with Dances with Wolves and JFK while bringing in big money with movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bodyguard. Then he began to flop critically with Waterworld and financially with The Postman. He was still a big name and a good actor, but he was never again the big star that could do anything (like make an epic like The Postman). He's still hovered around in Hollywood, even getting starring roles, but only recently he seems to be getting back into the bigger movies again. He had supporting roles in Man of Steel and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and this year has two starring roles in Draft Day and 3 Days to Kill.
In 3 Days to Kill he plays Ethan Renner, a "cleaner" for the CIA who is considered a lifer because of how good he is and how long he's been doing it. That's until he gets cancer which begins to interfere with his missions and cause him to abruptly retire. He decides to use his free time to reconnect with his daughter Zooey (Steinfeld) before he dies. That's when he gets an offer from Vivi (Heard) for an experimental drug in exchange for one last job: to finish what he started against The Wolf.
The trailers made the story more convoluted sounding than the movie actually is. The plot is actually straight-forward and makes sense, which is something that shouldn't have to be defended after a trailer. The movie goes back and forth between the typical "absentee father must bond with his daughter" story and the action plot which seems like an afterthought. It's when the two stories mix that the movie gets really fun and entertaining to watch. There are some funny moments when Ethan's two worlds clash that make it reminiscent of (if not nearly as good as) True Lies.
Costner manages to ground the film with his performance. He approaches the role in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way but at the same time it feels more genuine than McG's previous efforts. Ethan is a character who has made some mistakes but seems like a good guy outside of the fact he kills people (presumably bad people) for a living. Costner's always been good at these every-man type of roles and while he probably could sleepwalk through a performance like this, it's nice to see that he doesn't.
I also enjoyed the family unit. Connie Nielsen is conveniently written out of the middle third of the movie but when she's on screen she provides a nice balance to Ethan and Zooey. Haliee Steinfeld once again impresses in a movie role, as she's proving to be a fine young actress. She almost works just as hard in a movie like this as she did in True Grit, which is admirable. She takes a role that, like many others in the movie, has been done to death and gives it more emotional weight than was probably necessary.
If I had any complaints about the film , it's that the story is a little too by-the-numbers in both plots. When they combine, it's fun to watch, but when they're on their own it's the same thing you've seen a million times before. However, one thing that can be said in the film's defense is that it still manages to take generic action movie elements and make it work for this particular film. However, that means that the writing falters occasionally.
The villains of the movie get no real motivations or character development. I'm not entirely sure what their big plan was that had to be stopped, although the words "dirty bomb" are mentioned. The Wolf in particular, meant to be the main target, doesn't have a much screen time as he should. It's understandable as the film is more focused on Ethan and Zooey's relationship but it does make the moments when Costner is working feel a little hollow.
Any negatives of the film are helped by the comedic moments and nicely shot action sequences. Certain moments seem like they would be out of place or mark an abrupt tonal shift but the entire movie has an atmosphere of fun so it works in this. A special mention should go to Amber Heard, who is clearly having the most fun in the movie with her role of Vivi, who approaches her job in a more flamboyant fashion than your average CIA agent. She owns the screen whenever she shows up and provides more laughs after dramatic moments.
If you're just expecting a generic action movie with 3 Days to Kill, you'll be pleasantly surprised. While it does contain elements of that, there are still some well-shot action sequences and really funny moments that do not feel out of place. If this movie were too serious about its story, it could have fallen apart quickly. However, it keeps a nice balance between self-parody and a genuine if basic action-thriller/family drama. More importantly than that, it's a solid, entertaining movie and probably McG's best.
The 411: 3 Days to Kill is a solid, if unspectacular action movie. It hits all the right notes for a satisfying experience but there's nothing that will really stick with you when you leave the theater. If you're a fan of Kevin Costner or just need to get out and see a decent action movie, this one is for you.