‘3 Days to Kill’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:06 pm,

3 days to kill kevin costner 3 Days to Kill Review

3 Days to Kill offers little substance that hasn’t been handled more effectively in previous Besson Euro-action/thrillers.

In 3 Days to Kill, Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) – a 30-year veteran “cleaner” (read: assassin) for the CIA – learns that he’s dying from terminal brain cancer, shortly after he collapses during a failed mission to track down a mysterious terrorist known as “The Wolf” through his associate, “The Albino” (Tómas Lemarquis). Ethan thereafter heads to Paris, in order to spend what precious time he has left (no more than five months) with his American ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and estranged teenage daughter, Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld).

However, before he settles into retirement, Ethan is made an offer by CIA employee Vivi Delay (Amber Heard): if Ethan helps her locate and kill “The Wolf”, she will provide him with both a high payoff and injections of an experimental drug that could significantly prolong his life. Ethan takes the deal, but between torturing crooks for information, watching after (and bonding with) Zooey while his wife is out of town, and dealing with the side-effects of his treatment, it’ll be a wonder if Ethan makes it out of the next three days alive.

3 Days to Kill was co-written and produced by Luc Besson, who’s known for writing the Transporter and Taken movies, among other pop European action/thrillers (see: District B13). Similar to his previous offerings, this new Besson project wraps adrenaline-fueled action sequences around a warm gooey center (a rekindled father-daughter relationship), with a fair amount of social/political subtext and some quirky humor. Unfortunately, 3 Days to Kill is more miss than hit for Besson, as the individual components just never seem able to work together in harmony.

3 days kill kevin costner hailee steinfeld 570x294 3 Days to Kill Review

Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld in ‘3 Days to Kill’

Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak (who also collaborated on From Paris with Love) rely on some half-cooked plot devices – like how Ethan’s experimental medication causes him to blackout if his heart-rate goes too high – to tell a worthwhile story about a man dealing with the repercussions of his work, and his decision to prioritize his career over family. Unfortunately, because the various subplots (which include tracking down “The Wolf” and a family of Malian squatters residing in Ethan’s apartment) never organically fit together, they often feel like distractions, not enhancements, to the film’s narrative core – which is a decent father-daughter melodrama.

Aesthetically and thematically, 3 Days to Kill resembles other Besson-penned Euro-thrillers, enough so that you might never guess it was directed by McG – whose previous work in the espionage genre includes the cartoonish Charlie’s Angels movies and the action/rom-com, This Means War. McG and Besson have collaborated before (the former produced the latter’s Nikita TV series), so there’s some precedent for how McG slides into Besson’s world of high-octane, yet non-exploitative world-of-action filmmaking. Still, although the shot and editing choices are clean and coherent, there’s a lack of rhythm or cinematic showmanship to much of the film – making 3 Days to Kill a generally brisk ride, but not as kinetic or enthralling as other Besson productions.

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Amber Heard and Kevin Costner in ‘3 Days to Kill’

Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld serve as the heart of the film, helping to elevate the underserved father-daughter story into a solid, if unremarkable, part of the show. 3 Days to Kill isn’t the effective vehicle for Costner the over-50 action hero like Taken was for Liam Neeson, but Costner is solid as ever and his no-nonsense demeanor helps to make even the ridiculous and/or cloying elements (like running jokes about his clothes or a purple bike he buys for Zooey) more passable. Similarly, Steinfeld turns in yet another fine performance and helps to make Zooey feel like a believable teenager (if not exactly a memorable one).

Amber Heard as Vivi Delay – an enigmatic figure who’s very much her own boss – reads as a fun character, between her constant wig-changing and suffer-no-fools attitude; sorry to say, Heard’s performance is lacking and her screen time never feels as lively or zestful as it should’ve been. Connie Nielsen as Ethan’s ex-wife is likewise a solidly-written female character (not just the love interest for Costner), though she’s also not really onscreen long enough to make a strong impression or serve much more purpose besides moving the plot along. Still, the way that the women in Ethan’s life represent his conflicting interests (work, love, the future) makes it easier to appreciate what the film is going for – even though it doesn’t clear the bar.

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Kevin Costner and Connie Nielsen in ‘3 Days to Kill’

As for the rest of the supporting cast: Eriq Ebouaney as Jules – the patriarch of the Malian family that seeks refuge at Ethan’s place – is a buoyant personality and has easy-going charm, which makes his scenes pleasant – even though their purpose in Ethan’s character arc (not to mention, significance as cultural commentary) winds up muddled. Lastly, certain players show up and leave too quickly to leave an impression (see: Jonas Bloquet as Zooey’s boyfriend, Hugh), while the villains – be it Tómas Lemarquis as “The Albino” or Bruno Ricci as an Italian cohort named Guido (with a passion for spaghetti sauce) – are pretty much live-action cartoons, who exist to either look diabolical or serve as the butt of off-beat gags.

To sum it all up: 3 Days to Kill offers little substance that hasn’t been handled more effectively in previous Besson Euro-action/thrillers. Solid performances from its leads and respectable action sequences (which are not exactly plentiful here) provide the film with the kind of satisfactory entertainment value for lazy Sunday afternoon viewing – not really something worth paying the full-ticket price for the big screen viewing experience.

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3 Days to Kill is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 117 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and language.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. This movie looks awful and the low rating does not surprise me.

    • I know I’m in the minority here and most people who also don’t know about these things would think it’s not important, but you can tell this wasn’t a serious undertaking by the lack of attention to detail that you can spot just from promotional material alone. Keep in mind that the character is supposed to be a highly trained professional killer. So just like a movie featuring highly trained doctors not using their equipment right, the things that stick out to me the most is how Kevin Costner obviously has no clue how to use a firearm…

      Look at that picture at the top of the page, that is what I like to call “finger on the trigger n00b.” Because people who shoot a lot and are correctly trained in firearms have what is called “trigger discipline” and is so ingrained in our muscle memory we do it automatically. What I’m talking about is, we will never have our finger on the trigger unless we’re about to fire. Everytime I grab a firearm, my trigger finger is automatically straight like I’m pointing, requires no thinking, it’s literally automatic. When you see someone holding a firearm like that with their finger on the trigger, that’s red flag 1 that the person isn’t trained.

      Second, you see in the trailer, he doesn’t even hold the firearm correctly, he crosses his left thumb over across the rear of the weapon. Another amateur mistake. Both thumbs have to be on the same side, you NEVER cross your thumb across the rear of the weapon with your weak hand. That’s how you lose skin on your thumb when you fire the weapon and the slide moves back.

      But I know, here comes the ignorant people to tell me how stupid I am for noticing these things and how these things don’t mean anything. Again, would you feel the same way if this movie was about a veteran doctor and he doesn’t know how to use a stethoscope? The thing is, a good director will pay attention to detail. If the movie calls for a character that is a doctor, a good director will hire a medical professional to advise the actor on the correct mannerisms, the correct terminologies, the correct ways to use the equipment. Same with firearms. If a movie calls for a trained professional whose profession involves the use of firearms, such as someone in special forces, law enforcement, a “hit man,” or whatever, a good director would hire a firearm expert or a shooting instructor to come in and train the actor(s) in weapons handling, tactical movements, and other things you would expect a trained professional to know. Contrast this to Taken, a movie I’m sure a lot of people would compare this to. Although obviously that one was more serious, but you also see how Liam Neeson looks natural fighting and using firearms. They obviously hired a real professional to train him in those things. Also watch Collateral with Tom Cruise. Literally if you want to learn how to shoot form a conceal carry point of view, watch that movie. You see him correctly drawing the weapon, correct posture, correct grip, his reload is great, near perfect form in everything. And the secret behind that? Michael Mann hired a real firearm instructor to teach Tom Cruise those things, and obviously Mr. Cruise took the training VERY seriously because he has become an expert ever since that movie. Every movie he’s been in since then where he uses firearms he’s been perfect in every one in how he uses them.

      Again, say what you will about this. This is my opinion on how you can spot the difference between a well-made movie and a cheesy Hollywood action movie without the attention to detail…

      • Thank you for saying the tyhings I scream at my TV about. Eight years imn the USMC and subsequent duties have taught me the things you mentioned. I agree with you entirely and about Taken. I watched it twice and never got that buzzing in the back of my head that comes from, (why would an experienced operator do that?) Good job man, don’t let the haters get you down.


  2. On the same Friday the 2 major releases for the weekend are from Paul W. Anderson and McG.

    This is the darkest timeline. 😉

    • Haha love your community reference

  3. Have you ever seen a movie was so bad, you thought you didn’t want to lose both your money and time, and decided to walk out of it?

    I’ll start: Yes: 3 days to kill.

    – The first minute, we find out the villain’s name is “The Wolf”… oh dear.
    – His top aid is called, “The albino”….. Sounds fitting.
    – Not cheesy enough? Amber Heard plays the cheesiest agent character in movie history, badly.
    – Plot twist (oh it’s in the trailer by the way): All the sudden, the main character gets a brain tumor (as a surgeon, I can tell you neither his age, nor his presentation symptoms have anything to do with glioblastoma multiforme).
    – Cue in the angry rebellious teenager from a 1990s bad sitcom, with dialog so generic it will make you squirm in your seat.
    – Suddenly the movie shift directors and screenwriters and the whole mood of the movie shifts from action to family-friendly comedy.

    10 more minutes, and I decide I’m better off doing some shopping, and coming back home to re-watch Rush. Moral of the story: Just because there aren’t any good new releases, doesn’t mean you should just watch a movie on the weekend.

    • Great review. Thanks!

    • Damn, good choice, Rush is a great movie…

  4. Please stop using autoplay videos!

    As for this movie, I’ll pass. That Amber person can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag with a hole cut in it.

  5. They should have let Costner direct this thing; it might bhave been 3 hours longer, but it would have had some logic in place. BTW Costner hired combat veterans,(Cops) to get the final gunfight in Open Range so that the characters woulod move and fight in a more realistic manner. He must have left his Blackberry in the doctors office.

  6. I like Kevin Costner and think I’ve seen most of his movies. With that said, this movie stunk. I walked out about 80 mins into the show as I just couldn’t take it any longer. The cast is decent, but the script sucks and the acting is terrible. Seriously, not even worth watching on Netflix in a few weeks.

  7. Just saw this yesterday and I have to disagree with te review. It surprised me with how good (and how funny) it was. I wasn’t expecting it to have so much heart, and the relationship of Kevin Costner’s character to his estranged wife and daughter felt real. The character of vivi, played by heard, was clearly a symbol, representative of why Ethan got into the biz in the first place, sexy and mysterious…but now she holds no more allure or charm, save for what she can do to help him but more time with what really matters. I recommend it for a fun weekend movie.

  8. Easily the worst film I’ve seen in the last year or so.

  9. Whaat? I feel like I’m the only one who isn’t taking the movie seriously and enjoyed it very very thoroughly. I laughed my butt off at all the random funny moments – that random fat guy who tried to be a boss only to get worldlessly pushed then drop kicked out of the way had me cracking up – and still even as I type this and remember it fondly. Costner shooting the guy in the foot to get in the club – as well as the editing there – and that random earnest struggle for the door lock in the Russian guy’s house were hilarious as well.

    I absolutely loved Amber Heard – she was attractive as heck, and a needlessly sexy bad girl for no reason and I think that’s something we’ve missed in a lot of movies these days. It looked like she was having fun up there. Like a Bond girl, very very obviously set up for us to just enjoy her as a clearly movie trope girl. I loved her feistiness and bad girl although they went a little too shallow with it. Like okay, she’s sitting in front of a strip show – cool and sexy but why, is she into girls or nah? Or the fact that she’s playing the enigmatic master badass spy but she needs Costner to do every little thing for her, even though she seems to come out of nowhere to rescue him every time he faints. The drug thing was really pretty silly in all honesty. Definitely lazy writing there. Why didn’t he even carry a flask. And why did he get so upset with “spending the rest of my life killing for you” when he spent 5 years away from his own family just off killing people for money. Wut.

    All in all I think it was fun and fresh for the larger part of the first half of it. Then they kind of remembered that Hollywood needs soft stories (Africans and that weirdly brisk birth scene) teenage angst (“Hey, you almost got raped” “Blah blah blah you never taught me how to ride a bike” “By jove, I didn’t! I realize I am a terrible father for this and I must rectify that immediately. Lets go teach you how to bike”). long story short the latter part of the movie was sloppy, but the ending twist was relatively enjoyable.

    If they just took the movie tropes (hot bad girl commanding officer, old guy running around doing things for reasons) and quirky humor mixed with funny, self-aware badassery and let it run wild with that humorous editing that really stood out, then I would definitely watch a sequel.

    And seriously, whose idea was the African shenanigans though? That was entirely useless and random, and I didn’t like having an African family brought in just to be used like that.

    4/5 though. This is definitely a screen-rant of mine.