He plays Ethan Renner, a career hitman for the CIA who is promptly let go when he discovers that he has terminal cancer in his brain and lungs. He decides to use his remaining time to reconcile with his family, promising his wife that he's done with killing and trying to connect with his oblivious teenage daughter. Alas, just when he thinks he's out, the pouting Vivi Delay pulls him back in, promising a major cash payout and access to an experimental drug that could prolong his life, if he's able to kill the major players in an international crime syndicate within just 72 hours.
That time frame is supposed to be quite short, but this is actually the rare film that feels about as long as the period over which it takes place. Apparently, Ethan usually waits 48 hours between kills, so he's unaccustomed to the pace at which Amber Heard's handler sends him around Paris. But the double entendre of the title also refers to the time he spends with his daughter, played by Hailee Steinfeld, while her mother is away on business. This leads to a double-pronged assault of action and comedy in which the laughs never stop, if only because they never really start either.
Continuing his streak as World's Greatest Dad from last summer's Man Of Steel, Costner primarily spends this time scowling at the generational differences between him and his daughter and taking time out from comedy torture scenes (yep) in his professional life to ask his victim, a fellow father, if all teenagers are like this. In fact, he's constantly getting called away from his torture and interrogation by trifling teenage matters like an urgent meeting with her school principal, a pressing need to make spaghetti sauce, and a duty to teach her to ride a bike.
The first time this happens, it's strange and a little jarring. When it keeps happening, with every joke landing dead on arrival, it's downright punishing. Fortunately, the actual plot, with its ethnic stereotypes and vague villains who have codenames like The Albino and The Wolf, plays like something that wouldn't have passed muster for the kids in Son of Rambow, so it's no great loss. The shuddering gear-changes kind of turn it into a competition over who you're more annoyed to see- Steinfeld's self-absorbed teen or Heard's lazy dominatrix. Both are pretty even by the time the end credits finally roll on this punishing two-hour slog, so it's easier to just say both actresses are poorly served here.
Even in bucking the ingrained expectations of this type of these "an American hitman in Europe" movies, every choice that McG and Luc Besson have made, as director and screenwriter respectively, is more boring than if it had just been formulaic. Ethan has a daughter, but she doesn't get kidnapped or fridged a la Taken, instead just whining and railing at him (and not without reason either.) Ethan depends on an experimental drug to stay alive, but rather than give him super-powered endurance a la Crank, it literally incapacitates him as soon as his heart rate goes up, i.e. during every action scene. Above all, it's desperately pandering after True Lies, but even that relatively attainable standard is beyond the reach or grasp of its yeoman-like producer and hack director.
3 Days To Kill is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen 3 Days To Kill, why not leave a comment below? Also, tell me if you think there has ever been a more laboured pun than the "other fish to fry" line when Ethan first refuses the call.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.