Review: “3 Days to Kill”

Film Title: 3 Days To Kill

After a successful career in the CIA, Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is finally forced to retire when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Upon returning home to Paris, he finds that squatters have taken over his apartment, his ex-wife (Connie Nelson) is seeing someone new and his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) is no longer the little girl he remembers. Just when he starts to mend some of these relationships, an operative named Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) presents him with a final mission which, if he completes, could present a drug that will increase his life expectancy.

There are few working directors today that carry around more baggage with them than McG. From the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise to his absolutely dreadful “Terminator Salvation”, many film lovers shudder just at the mention of his name. While his work on “3 Days to Kill” doesn’t exactly earn him any points (more on that later), he has proven to be a good TV producer with shows like “Chuck”, “The O.C.” and “Supernatural”.

While McG is pure garbage when it comes to filmmaking, Luc Besson, the writer for “3 Days to Kill”, is more of a mixed bag. He is responsible for great films like “Leon: The Professional”, “Taken” and “The Fifth Element” but also wrote some really bad ones (“Lockout”). Combining these two guys is just asking for trouble and, shockingly, that’s what happens with “3 Days to Kill”.

McG’s direction basically consists of quick cuts and zooms during anything action-related. He’s almost afraid to show anyone die onscreen as if it would offend us at this point. His past experience shooting music videos really shows up in this film and it doesn’t help things.

Let’s go down a little checklist for what makes a great spy/action film: 1. Are there great action sequences? Answer: Not in the least. There is one decent car chase near the end and a little shootout at the beginning of the film. 2. Are the characters memorable? Answer: The bad guys are named The Albino and The Wolf and we see them do next to nothing the whole film. Also, Amber Heard plays a 13-year-old’s idea of what a female CIA agent would be like and her name is Vivi freakin’ Delay. You tell me if those sound cool. 3. Is the plot intricately executed? Answer: The plot is easily the worst thing about the film and it is so basic you could nap through half the film and be totally up to speed.

It’s clear that this film isn’t taking itself too seriously because Costner only speaks in bad grumpy-old-man jokes for the majority of the film and it tries way too hard to be funny above all else. To its credit, a few of the jokes actually land, but when you pack in as many as this film does, it’s pretty inevitable.

One thing viewers might want to be aware of heading into the film is that “3 Days to Kill” is not a spy film. While that may be the framing for the story, almost the entire film is about Costner’s character, Ethan, rebuilding his relationship with his daughter. He teaches her to ride a bike, how to dance and they braid each other’s hair. Okay, maybe I just added that last one on for effect. To be honest, if the father-daughter element was done well enough, I could forgive the amazingly poor spy storyline. Instead it basically amounts to Hailee Steinfeld’s character magically changing and also being too stupid to realize that her father is kidnapping/killing people.

As for the performances in the film, it’s hard to be too upset with anyone considering how bad the script is. Heard’s character is one of the dumbest characters I’ve seen on film in quite some time, but she tries to make it work by playing up the silliness. Most of the cast is stuck playing caricatures, so there’s nothing worth remembering.

If it sounds like I hated “3 Days to Kill”, you would be correct. The film never knows what it wants to be as it continually switches themes, tempo and genres and ends up failing in just about every way it can. I’d tell you to wait for it to come on TV, but time is still a very precious commodity and you deserve better.

Grade: D

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Review: “Robocop”

RoboCop

Remember that time Hollywood re-made that iconic film and no one was upset by it. Me neither.

It feels a little silly to still be complaining about remakes, but it’s almost like the studio wanted to make “Robocop” fans instantly hate this film. Eventually I will move on to reviewing the 2014 film, but first I have to (briefly) explain what made the 1987 film memorable. If you don’t care, just move down two paragraphs. First, it presented a prophetic view of where technology and the infrastructure of cities like Detroit were headed. Second, it was one of the most violent films in mainstream American history, needing 12 different attempts to get the MPAA to grant it an R instead of an X-rating. Third, its satire of corporate life and America in general gave it a dark, humorous edge.

So how does this re-imagining compare? Like a film from a completely different franchise. The action is entirely impersonal and bloodless. There is no sense of the city of Detroit as the film bounces from the Middle East to Detroit to Washington, D.C. to China and then back to Detroit. Part of what made Robocop necessary in the original was that Detroit was in ashes, but in this film it’s just another American city. The satire has been completely removed minus Samuel L. Jackson doing his best Bill O’Reilly impression throughout the film. What are we left with? A generic action flick with a cyborg.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, “Robocop” is the story of police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). Taken out by some criminals he’s pursuing, he’s left with roughly two appendages and little-to-no chance at surviving. In steps Omnicorp, seemingly the world leader in robotics, drone warfare, etc. who are having trouble assuring the American people that their machines can be trusted to keep the streets safe. Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), the CEO, decides that in order to give his machines a friendlier face they need to put a man into one of their drone bodies. The doctor (Gary Oldman) in charge of the project believes that in order for Robocop to be as productive as his inorganic counterparts, though, they would have to remove what’s left of his humanity. Thus begins the biggest quandary of the film.

While it’s easy to compare certain things from this film to its 1987 inspiration, director Jose Padilha and first-time writer Joshua Zetumer at least tried to make this film its own entity by wiping out most of the characters from the original. Roughly the only characters to make the switch are Murphy, Lewis (now a male character played by Michael K. Williams) and Clara Murphy (Abbie Cornish), though in the original the latter didn’t have a name because she was only in one scene.

Padilha is a Brazilian director known for his action film series “Elite Squad” and, though I wish he had a better American debut, does pretty well transferring his talents over to this film. The main two problems of the film are a weak script and the weight of the film’s predecessor dragging around. Despite these shortcomings and pressure from the studio for the film to secure a PG-13 rating, Padilha does what he can to string along a decent action flick.

Although Joel Kinnaman is great on “The Killing”, it doesn’t feel like he did much to change his character from that to this cop role. Even though the filmmakers decided to give Robocop a visor that shows off more of the star’s face, they didn’t bother to make him particularly interesting. Instead they surrounded the star with a high-caliber supporting cast to make up the difference. Jackson and Jackie Earle Haley as the Omnicorp security expert Rick Mattox are easily the best thing about the film acting-wise, though it is nice to see Keaton and a not-so-annoying Jay Baruchel.

What most people unfamiliar with the series will probably care about is the action sequences. After all, if enough things go boom maybe we can get over some of the other problems. There is enough action in the film to where it doesn’t lull, but there’s nothing new or all that interesting about the sequences. One shootout sticks out because it takes place in the dark with only muzzle fire lighting the scene. It’s kind of cool but I think “Smokin’ Aces” had a better idea keeping the effect shorter.

“Robocop” isn’t a bad film, but much like the fourth installment of “Die Hard”, it feels like someone forgot what the film was supposed to be about. When a film loses its purpose like that, it feels like selling out whether or not that’s the case. With as bad as 2014 has been so far, though, you could do a lot worse than this remake.

Grade: C+

Happy viewing.