Genre: Drama, Thriller
Directed by: McG
Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard
Given that it’s written by Luc Besson, directed by the boisterous McG, and starring a grizzled Kevin Costner, those who approach 3 Days To Kill will undoubtedly be hoping that it can emulate the bold and brash excitement of Taken. Certainly, with its Parisian setting, gung-ho atmosphere, and efficiently violent central character who shares an estranged relationship with his daughter, Besson does seem to be more than borrowing from his previously successful formula. However, as it soon transpires, what Besson is actually trying to achieve here is something much more audacious.
Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA agent with a special skill for expertly taking out the world’s nastiest villains. However, when he is told that he has developed cancer and only has a few months to live, Renner sets off on a personal mission to reconnect himself with his estranged wife and daughter in Paris. Then, when a seductive CIA agent shows up and offers him an experimental drug that may save his life, Ethan sets about trying to juggle taking down one of the world’s deadliest terrorists with his complicated domestic situation.
The last time Luc Besson collaborated with co-writer Adi Hasak resulted in From Paris With Love, an action-heavy and plot-light thriller that, while ridiculous, was consistently entertaining. Here the writers have attempted to readdress the balance, driving their script with story instead of shootouts. The outcome unfortunately is a bumbling, but well-intentioned mess.
The problem is that Besson and Hasak have tried to incorporate too much into their film, cluttering the narrative with various added devices that are superfluous to the story and inevitably forgotten about before they are ever really addressed. Baffling scenes of Ethan connecting with squatters who have made themselves at home in his Parisian flat at first feel like bizarre attempts at culture clash comedy, before becoming wincingly sentimental once Renner’s heart grows a few sizes.
Worse still is the thread involving Ethan’s attempts to take down a ruthless terrorist hiding in the city, which was the main selling point of the film’s advertising campaign despite being continuously forgotten about within the narrative. Taken fans will find themselves relentlessly frustrated by director McG’s lethargic action sequences, which scatter the sluggish running time but fail to inject it with the adrenaline. Although amusement can be found in Amber Heard’s attempts to play a ballsy femme fatale, which are so ridiculously hammy they feel like parody before the end.
In fact, the only area the film ever manages to show conviction is in its broken relationship between Ethan and his daughter Zooey. To the writer’s credit they clearly care about this core relationship, which is no great praise considering they don’t seem to care about much else, but it does mean that most of the scenes shared between father and teenager manage to avoid the pratfalls of melodrama.
To his credit, Costner tries to make the best of this generally limiting material. There’s a degree of heart injected in to the scenes between him and his daughter, further helped by the Hailee Steinfeld’s commendable performance. While his ability to never look as bored as he probably felt during the mercilessly languid scenes of sub-par action and eye-rolling humor is eminently laudable.
Despite Costner’s best efforts though, 3 Days To Kill never manages to ignite the spark needed to truly capture the audience’s attention. With a script rooted in half-baked ideas, Besson’s attempt to create a blockbuster built on brains and brawn is closer in quality to Taken’s sequel than the original.