Cast: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen
Plot: A retired hitman (Costner) is forced to kill for the CIA, when they offer him a cure for his terminal cancer.
In someone else’s hands, 3 Days to Kill would be a gripping, yet thoughtful movie about a killer forced to reflect on his own mortality. Despite killing for all the right reasons, when faced with the one enemy he can’t simply shoot between the eyes, cancer, he is forced to plunge into the sins he has committed and turns to his forgotten good nature to find redemption. He clings to a family that have disowned him for his evil ways and slowly, in the face of his imminent death, they find a way to let them into their hearts again. However, when a shadowy government agent shows up in Paris one afternoon, offering him a cure to his terminal illness, if he commits a series of murders, he is forced back to his old ways. He is a man, who has just tasted what it is like to an honest father figure, but if he values his own life, he must turn his back on his family. The movie would show this movie’s bad-ass to be the weakest person in the story, so desperate for a few more months of life, he would throw away the remnants of his honour. The movie would deliver the action, yet ask in a dark, sombre tone: what would you rather have? A full life where you become your own worst enemy? Or a short one where you can look yourself in the mirror. Of course, this is not the movie that 3 Days to Kill chooses to be and instead we get one of the most painful experiences of my life.
I can kind of see where the thought process came from in this burnt out mess. Luc Besson, who writes this piece of garbage, looked at his surprise success, Taken, and ponders where it fell short. The father figure, that older action hero, was a good basis of a lead hero, but there was something hollow about the whole affair. His daughter and ex-wife were narrative chess pieces and we never really saw how Bryan Mills could selflessly lay his life down for them, other than the obvious fact that they were family. Therefore 3 Days to Kill strips back the action to the background and focuses more on the family life of Kevin Costner’s CIA hitman. In fairness to the film, Connie Nielsen is a much better love interest than Famke Janssen’s pathetic stock character. However, what McG ends up giving us is Taken without the action and the movie ends up becoming a carbon copy of Besson’s previous movie but with none of the soul. Hailee Steinfeld’s daughter is terribly written, a bunch of daughter clichés stapled together and called a day. Kevin Costner is asked to play it gruff and stoic, McG totally missing Liam Neeson’s understated take on the action hero, and as a result, it doesn’t matter if the family scenes have tripled in length compared to Taken; when Costner delivers his lines in a gruff bark constantly, we never feel the emotional punch that McG wants to convey. The drama is always being awkwardly coupled with humour. I say humour, but the laughs are few, if there at all. Costner kidnaps an informant and during torture, asks him how to make the best bolognaise sauce to please his daughter. He pops around to his enemy’s house to ask them for parenting advice. It is awkward, tonally clueless and makes Taken look OSCAR-worthy.
And the most painful thing is that by focusing far too much on the father-daughter relationship, McG kills what could have been the film’s saving grace: the action. There isn’t so much of a plot to 3 Days to Kill as a vague series of shoot-outs. Amber Heard pops up every now and again, mutters some exposition that doesn’t really hit home and asks Costner to kill some people. Most of the time, he suffers a hallucinogenic fit during a crucial stage of the mission. Vodka helps apparently, for both the hero and the poor audience. The villains never register as characters and most of the time, we forget we are meant to be watching an action movie at all. Amber Heard’s character is all over the place, the poor actress once again showing the beginnings of a good performance, before the writers overly sexualise her character and puts another grinding halt to a chance of a good career. The first scene shows her without too much make-up and hinted at being a top assassin. The very next time we see her she acts like something out of a Sin City movie and gets the big, strong male to do her killing for her. It is Machete Kills all over again. The ending tries to be clever with a small twist that is so pointless it barely registers. Not that it truly matters. We’ve stopped caring by that point.
Final Verdict: Costner and Heard aren’t allowed to act, the fighting isn’t allowed to breathe and the script struggles with concepts like emotion and comedy. Liam Neeson quietly sniggers in the shadows.