The Kevin Coster action flick 3 Days to Kill is entertaining but as sloppy as they get.
Director McG is one of my favorites. In 2002, he introduced us to the most important directorial innovation of the past decade: the Ram, in which a scene is suddenly slowed down for 5-10 seconds, then sped up for the same time, before returning to normal speed. Zack Snyder used this to perfection in 300, and McG utilized it every week on his short-lived but sexy/violent Fox show. Today, his technique is seen everywhere, begging the question why he never uses it in the new movie 3 Days to Kill, a sloppy and unfulfilling ride that feels like a reject from Dr. Frankenstein instead from a renowned director.
When veteran CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Coster) learns he is terminally ill, he returns to Paris to reconnect with estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and their daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). However, the long arm of the CIA returns in the form of Agent Vivi Dely (Amber Heard), who bears a unique gift: an experimental drug that can cure Ethan, provided that he will complete one more job for the company. Ethan uses unique methods to hunt The Wolf (Richard Sammel) while trying to patch things up with his family and keep his real job a secret from the inquisitive Zoey. As the body count rises, Ethan must make a choice between accepting more injections for more kills or living out the rest of his days with those he cares most about.
3 Days to Kill can't decide if it wants to be an action thriller, a spy comedy, or a touching drama, tripping haphazardly between them and frustrating us with its seesaw motion. That blame falls squarely upon the shoulders of Writers Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, who treat several elements of the story with such disdain that it's hard to figure out how they got this script approved. There's no real danger for Costner to tackle as we know how this will end; when it does, Heard's character steps in to finish things, when it's clear she could have done this all along. Hers is a transformation that's hard to understand - she starts off first as a professionally-dressed CIA Control-type of agent, but arrives in Paris decked out in vynil, leather, and corsets. Her overt sexuality and fetishes are never explained, seem unrealistic from the start, and continue when she returns home after a job well done. Such a brazenly sexual character could have represented a wild card for Costner to deal with at film's end - instead, she stands over him legs spread open, with Costner retorting, "Is this what Hell looks like?" But it's also a post-production nightmare, filled with horrible ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) and stunt drivers who are clearly not Costner. Typically they wear masks - which are usually replaced with the actor's face in post production - but that is forgotten here. The bad guys are your typical standard-form dudes with no emotion, including Sammuel and Tómas Lemarquis who plays his assistant The Albino. Apparently, early test audiences agreed: as we emerged from the screening, we couldn't help but notice a rather lengthy 'Re-shoot Team' in the credit which is never a good sign.
However, the pieces of this puzzle are stronger than the whole and there are many things to like here. Costner and Steinfeld have great chemistry, representing another success for the young Ender's Game actress. The funny scenes are good, especially between Costner, Bruno Ricci and Marc Andréoni as The Wolf's money guys. McG shoots a nice 'tennis match' scene with Ricci that reminds us of Reservoir Dogs with Ricci dispensing pasta sauce recipes to Steinfeld before being interrogated. The idea of a father missing out on the most important events in his daughter's life is another enticing element, which by itself would have made for a great picture. Even the score by Guillaume Roussel is both beautiful and pulsing when it needs to be. And yet it still doesn't work - the Heard character, sloppy dialogue, and a general sense of things being rushed simply pushes down what should have been the real story - the chance for a father to reconnect with his family - in favor of random action and comedy. Costner is given more meat in this year's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, playing essentially the Heard character with a ton more class and style. He's still a great leading man, and given a good parts like Jack Ryan and Man of Steel he will continue to pack theaters. But 3 Days to Kill could have been more, and it's frustrating to watch it miss chance after chance to impress.
3 Days to Kill could have been the next sensible evolutionary step in a genre mostly stuck in a cycle of fast car chases and scantily-clad women, sans Skyfall; instead, it seesaws between passable drama, lighthearted comedy, and acceptable action. Its parts are better than its whole, with horrible ADR and post-production and a script that can't figure out what it is, leading one to wonder how such things can happen with a team of this caliber. We'd recommend this only for a matinee, but realize that not even a Director's Cut on Blu-ray would settle the issue. 3 Days to Kill represents an important a lesson in film-making: just because you can, doesn't mean you should. It's rated PG-13 for sexual situations and drug use and has a runtime of 113 minutes.
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