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.