3 Days to Kill, 2014
Directed by McG.
Starring Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld and Connie Nielsen.
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.
Another day, another Kevin Costner CIA spy thriller. Coincidentally, at time of writing, the previous days’ delight was the completely average Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (sounds like it really should be a game, right?) where he plays a covert and deadly accomplice to Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan. Here, he is an aging CIA operative, Ethan Renner (c’mon, really?) riddled with brain cancer that is very keen on also introducing itself to other areas of his anatomy.
Well, thriller is what you might expect. Given the premise, plot synopsis and trailer, you might be forgiven for thinking that 3 Days to Kill is just another mysterious wannabe excuse for our lead playing fast and loose with people’s lives, duffing up baddies and looking supremely cool whilst doing so. And to a certain extent, certainly in the first act at least, this is true. After that, however, the film decides to take something of an unexpected deviation from this charted territory and becomes something else entirely for quite a proportion of the running time.
After being retired by the Agency due to the previously mentioned ill-health, he decided to return to Paris, the home of his ex-wife and somewhat estranged daughter. The reason for their separation is never made crystal clear, but what is obvious is his ex-wife’s dislike for his chosen profession, namely killing other people and putting himself in harms way for a living. When he returns to see his daughter, he already knows of his impending demise, being given a few short months to live, so naturally, with nothing better to do, he chooses to spend what time he has left getting to know his daughter a little better.
So he goes back to his own apartment that he had rented some time ago, to find a family of African squatters living there. Nice squatters, of course, not crack whores, or anything. Initially, he wants them out, but like any good man with a pure heart he relents on his demands, especially as the daughter of this particular family is soon the give birth to a child.
And here is where the story really begins to turn. Gone is the undercover globe-trotting shenanigans, replaced by a story of a mostly missing father trying to put his house in order before he shrugs off this mortal coil and makes for the heavens. He is obstructed from all this peace and sobriety, however, by the appearance of the mysterious and seductive Vivi (Amber Heard) who has an offer he just can’t refuse.
So the film now turns once more, but not as completely as previously. The first act is an action thriller, the second act is an emotional family drama and in the third act, McG attempts to interweave the two narratives together with, if we’re honest, mixed results. The plot is a little tired throughout, being somewhat predictable in both act one and two, but if that weren’t bad enough, if you can’t see the third act denouement from a mile away, then you haven’t really been paying attention.
Costner pretty much saunters through the entire thing, not really being forced to stretch himself, emotionally at least. His Agent/Father quandary never really coming to the fore as you might expect. There are moments of mirth where this unconventional assassin does things that you will find hard to comprehend and believe and under normal cinematic circumstances, you might swallow these actions as the quirks of a man on the edge with nothing to lose, but given his family connections, you just don’t buy into some of his decisions, making the character of Ethan a little difficult to either root for or really believe. Costner’s performance is engaging, of course, but credible? Well, not so much.
Ably supported by Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen as his ex-wife and Hailee Steinfeld as his teenage daughter, the film is never boring and will entertain many kinds of audience, though it may well not satisfy any of them. Some nice action scenes fill out the exposition, but the moments where emotions are required feel underplayed and on occasion, are actually unconvincing.
Not one for the purist of any genre, but for those not testing their gray matter too much, this is run of the mill popcorn fodder for the masses, that will meld into your memory with another dozen or so movies just like it. Set your expectations for ‘average’ and you’ll be fine. If you’re standing in the queue at your local multiplex and you can’t agree on anything, you could do much worse.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★