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2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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3 Days to Kill
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by Jay Seaver

"Kevin Costner hopes people will be Taken with him."
3 stars

How many agents do you think watched "Taken" (our at least its grosses) and then got on the phone to Luc Besson's company to basically say "that thing you did for Liam Neeson? Do it for my guy!"? And it's not a bad plan; every movie star could use a straightforward action movie that reminds audiences of what they do well every once in a while! Heck, so could the occasional director, and while "3 Days to Kill" is probably not quite the tonic either Kevin Costner or McG was looking for, it's good steak-and-potatoes action that benefits from having Costner at its center.

Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA operative on a mission to stop the sale of a dirty bomb who is hacking like he's been near one too many. Whether or not that's the cause, he's diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer afterward, and heads to Paris to spend his last few months with his estranged ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zooey (Hailed Steinfeld). That plan is interrupted by ambitious young handler Vivi (Amber Heard), who dangles an experimental treatment in front of Ethan if he'll help her put down the arms dealer from the last job, since only Ethan has seen his face. Kind of gets in the way of Christine trusting him to look after Zooey while she in London on business, though.

I'm not sure whether Kevin Costner got grumpy in middle age or if not having much patience for nonsense was always part of his appeal, but it's a tricky persona to pull off. It doesn't really work unless you get the sense that he really loves something underneath the complaining, which may be why he had such success with baseball movies (what else lets you start wishing for the good old days in your early twenties?). So Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak go for some sitcom-y clueless dad bits and also have him clash with his new younger boss, and while it's silly, it's also something that Costner does rather well. When French people call him a cowboy, it may be meant as a generic American stereotype, but he's got the look and attitude to make it ring true, and a withering look from a cowboy carries a bit of weight. It lets Costner be kind of funny without doing too much damage to the character's tough-guy credentials.

Which is good, because this is kind of a goofy movie in some ways. For all that Besson & Hadak pit Ethan against a set of villains that are kind of sadly generic - "The Albino" (Tómas Lemarquis) doesn't stand out enough among Europeans with shaved heads and nice suits to warrant a name like that and a late-movie opportunity for "The Wolf" (Richard Sammel) to be Ethan's evil counterpart goes by the wayside - his allies, reluctant and otherwise, are the fun kind of quirky, from the family of Malian squatters that have taken over Ethan's apartment while he's been away to Marc Andréoni as an understanding (if technically hostile) source of intel. And then there's Amber Heard as Vivi, a sociopath in a series of absurdly sexualized costumes, so much the opposite of Costner's down-to-Earth take on anything that she almost doesn't seem to belong in the same movie, but she dangerous and hilarious. She's a needed jolt whenever the rest of the movie threatens to get standard and boring, which is a constant danger.

Usually Besson uses up-and-coming French directors for these movies, this one is helmed by American journeyman Joseph McGinty "McG" Nichol (though still set in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower showing up in more shots than seems strictly plausible). He does a fair job, in that most of his tendencies for excessive flourish are reined in, although he's not quite so good with the honest sentiment as he'd like to be. He handles the action fairly well, though; he's given sequences that have enough creativity to grab the audience's attention and executes those car chases and shootouts cleanly. That may not sound like much, but imagine if Besson's current go-to guy Olivier Megaton had drawn this assignment; it would have been an ugly, confusing mess.

That Costner, McG, and company avoided a mess is not exactly high praise, and "3 Days to Kill" had neither the exceptional action nor quite enough eccentricity to transcend its modest ambitions. It is slick enough to be meet that goal, though, and just kookily memorable enough that I can think of at least one potential "4 Days to Kill" that I'd like to see.

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originally posted: 02/25/14 14:49:21
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User Comments

7/26/14 mr.mike Repeats some gags one too many times but otherwise a good bet. 4 stars
4/11/14 EDWARD BENITEZ average action film. Costner is good. 3 stars
2/25/14 Bob Dog Refreshing take on the tropes! 5 stars
2/23/14 Marilyn This movie was excellent. I am not a writer or reviewer, but I highly recommend this movie. 5 stars
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  21-Feb-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-May-2014


  DVD: 20-May-2014

Directed by

Written by
  Adi Hasak
  Luc Besson

  Kevin Costner
  Amber Heard
  Hailee Steinfeld
  Connie Nielsen
  Richard Sammel
  Eriq Ebouaney

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