FlixChatter Review: 3 Days to Kill

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A dying Secret Service Agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment.

Ok, the fact that McG directed this from Luc Besson’s script doesn’t exactly spell ‘must see’ on my list. Heck, the last film by those two I saw were This Means War (even w/ Tom Hardy in it, it’s only worth seeing when killing time on a plane!) and the abysmal The Family respectively. But I gave this a shot because I’m a big fan of Kevin Costner and it’s nice to see him in a leading role again.

So the film begins with a shoot-out at a hotel between a CIA agent Ethan Renner (Costner) and the agency’s biggest fish, a nasty terrorist in possession of nuclear bombs. The operation was a bust partly because Renner passed out as he’s apparently been suffering from brain cancer. So he’s given only a few months to live and he decides to spend it with his estranged wife and teenage daughter in where else, Paris. That’s classic Besson as he has such a penchant for setting his films in his hometown the City of Lights.

What surprised me here is that this flick is not just all action and car chases, though of course you can expect a lot of that from McG and Besson. There’s equal drama here in the form of a father-daughter relationship. I don’t mind that part even if it all looks familiar and somewhat schmaltzy at times. Hailee Steinfeld is quite good as his bratty teen Zooey who’s slowly warming up to her dad, she makes her character more interesting than otherwise would under a less capable young actress. Connie Nielsen doesn’t get much to do as Costner’s estranged wife but it’s been a while since I saw her in anything so it’s nice to see she’s still working.

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The resemblance to Taken is uncanny given the action paired with father/daughter drama. But the fact that there are more preposterous action scenes in the Liam Neeson vehicle, Taken was decidedly more entertaining. It may seem that Neeson is giving advice to Costner to be another aging seasoned action star, but to be fair, Costner was already doing action flicks early in his career, even played a spy in No Way Out and most recently a CIA mentor in the latest Jack Ryan movie. I must say he’s still got it, and still looks good doing it, too.

I think the weakest link in this movie is Amber Heard. Her character is so darn cheesy, the clichéd femme fatale of a blond seductress with stiletto heels & red lips, complete with corny lines like “I’m everybody’s type” as she shamelessly flirts with Ethan. There’s an apparent disdain that Ethan is showing towards Vivi which is nice to see as I share his dread. All the scenes with Vivi is so lame and cringe-worthy. I was never fond of Heard since I saw her in The Joneses, and she proves to be a one-note actress here.

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Mixing genres is always tricky and I don’t think the filmmaker/writer involved are skilled enough to make it work here. It ends up working more of an action comedy with some drama thrown in. The espionage stuff is used more in a gimmicky manner that I can’t even call it a spy thriller. There’s also a subplot involving an African immigrant family staying in his Paris flat that feels awkward here. I think it’s meant to show Ethan’s softer side but it’s rather overkill as we’ve already got that from his relationship with his daughter. Plus that whole baby delivery is so unrealistic that it was utterly risible. There are some genuine laughs to be had though, especially the scenes involving Marc Andréoni as the bad guy’s limo driver. There’s also a droll running gag with Ethan’s phone, set to Icona Pop’s perky tune I Love It (I Don’t Care) by Zooey, that keeps going off at the most inopportune time.

All things considered, I find this movie fairly entertaining as I didn’t take it too seriously. Much like True Lies where there are more plot holes than bullet holes in the cars the hero’s shooting at. The Paris scenery are nice to look at and there’s the obligatory car chases and shoot-outs that should please action fans. I definitely think Costner still makes this one worthwhile in my book. He’s watchable even in the the repetitive scenes of him being disoriented from the cancer drug. At 59, he’s still got his movie-star charisma and presence to pull off an action hero role. I’m certainly glad this turns out to be better than McG and Besson’s previous films I mentioned above. So if you’re a fan of this genre and Costner, I’d say this is well-worth a matinee viewing or a rental.

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Have you seen 3 Days to Kill? Well, I’d love to hear what you think!