In the early Nineties, Kevin Costner was the man. His star-making turn came in 1987, as Prohibition agent Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s superb crime drama, The Untouchables. He followed it up with starring roles in No Way Out, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and Dances With Wolves. Since then he’s had a few good projects, but plenty of duds too, and over the past decade he’s zombied his way through several forgettable films.
In 2012, Costner won an Emmy for his performance in the television miniseries Hatfields and McCoys. The acclaim created a resurgence, and his new action comedy 3 Days To Kill is the second of four new Costner flicks hitting theaters in 2014.
Costner plays dying Secret Service agent Ethan Renner. His work is his life. He hasn’t taken a sick day in 32 years, and when he discovers that he’s terminally ill, he wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). Renner’s icy vixen of a boss (Amber Heard- Johnny Depp’s fiancée) offers him an experimental drug that could save his life if he’s willing to complete one last assignment.
If it sounds a bit cliche, that’s because it is. There’s a lack of polish over the entire proceeding. The characters lack depth, the plot’s convoluted, the script needs a tune up, and at times the movie is simply absurd. For example, when Renner arrives at his semi-abandoned home after a long time away on assignment, he finds a family squatting there; a jovial father, a young pregnant girl, and several relatives including children. Renner tells the police and they inform him that there’s a law that forbids him to kick the squatters out, so he lets them stay. It’s silly and it doesn’t make sense. Also, the experimental drug he takes makes him hallucinate and apparently the cure for that is chugging vodka.
3 Days To Kill is uneven. The director, McG, tries to juggle violent action scenes with sentimental father-daughter bonding scenes and they don’t mix well. Decapitation and bike riding lessons don’t always go hand in hand. The explosions of violence are comically dark, and the audience cheered on multiple occasions. The darker scenes reminded me of Payback with Mel Gibson.
Outside of the violence, when the movie tries to be funny it doesn’t always work. A mustache/goatee debate is intended for laughs but was met with silence, and a running joke about Renner’s ratty clothes grows old fast. The biggest crowd reaction came during a scene that is reminiscent of a previous Costner film. I don’t know if the similarities are intentional, but sure enough somebody screamed out, “it’s the bodyguard!” and the crowd lost it.
The supporting characters are flimsy. Amber Heard is supposed to be the ultimate badass, but comes off as someone trying too hard to be cool. She’s attractive, but she looks too young for the role, and her character doesn’t feel plausible. Her dialogue is over-the-top and she feels like a comic book character. Hailee Steinfeld was amazing in True Grit, but her talents are wasted here. She plays your typical, disgruntled, adolescent movie daughter.
There are some things I enjoyed about 3 Days. It’s surprisingly entertaining. It’s actually fun and even though it’s a bit of a mess, it never annoyed me. I love movies that take place in France. Paris is an excellent backdrop for a film and it doesn’t disappoint here. The movie feels a little like Léon: The Professional or Taken, and that’s because all three were written by Luc Besson. This one doesn’t resonate like some of his better films, but you can feel his influence.
Costner doesn’t fully let loose like I wish he would. At times it looks like he’s having fun, and at others he’s a bit stiff. I’d like to see him replicate his Hatfields & McCoys success on the big screen, and I’d like to see him take more risks. He was cast against type as the vicious slave handler Ace Woody in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but dropped out citing scheduling conflicts. It’s a shame too because fans were looking forward to seeing him do something out of his comfort zone.
If you’re an action junkie, give 3 Days To Kill a chance. It’s by no means a good movie, but it’s surprisingly entertaining at times.
I rate this film 2.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Essential Viewing: The French Connection, Léon: The Professional, Payback, Ronin
Check out the trailer below:
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