A dying CIA agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. (from IMDB.com)
It seems like Kevin Costner's been making a bit of a comeback lately. After appearing as Pa Kent in last year's Man of Steel, Costner has had three more relatively higher profile releases, starring alongside Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and having lead roles in the upcoming Ivan Reitman-directed football comedy Draft Day, and the recent action thriller 3 Days To Kill. Thanks to the success of the Liam Neeson vehicle Taken (and his follow up butt-kicking thrillers), Costner fills a similar role as a CIA operative in a film co-written by the Taken director and helmed by Charlie's Angels director McG.
Given that this film seemed to get very little push aside from a Super Bowl spot, one probably wouldn't have many expectations when approaching 3 Days To Kill. The story revolves around Costner's agent, Ethan Renner, who has always put his job first, especially at the expense of his estranged wife and daughter -- the latter of which he has missed most of the life of. When he finds out that he's suffering from a terminal disease, he decides to reconnect with his family and the daughter he doesn't even know, but gets roped into one last hit job at the same time. The film spends most of its time juggling Ethan's attempts to connect with his teenage daughter Zooey (played by True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld) and his violent career. It's an odd mix, and the viewer may feel a bit thrown into the fire of Ethan's life, but it works more often than it doesn't.
While it isn't the most original or tightly told story, McG keeps it entertaining throughout. And he fills the film with accomplished players--like Costner and Steinfeld--to keep it engaging. The film moves at a pretty quick pace from the start but things flip flop a bit drastically once Ethan starts spending time with Zooey. Some viewers may find it jarring (or even boring), but I actually enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two. You feel for what Ethan's trying to do, but you also realize he needs to try to make do with sleeping in the bed he's made. The only character that doesn't really work so well is Amber Heard playing Ethan's flashy handler, Vivi, as this femme fatale who enjoys using Ethan to do her dirty work. She seems more villain than government operative and the sadistic joy she seems to get out of him doing work for her makes her an even more difficult character to make sense of. Is she good? Is she bad? Does she have a weird crush on this famed agent? Or is he just a dog she leads around on a leash? We never really seem to get an answer either.
I'll admit, I've never been much of a Costner fan. I think he's a very, very dry actor, but I loved him as Pa Kent and I think playing the crusty older guy suits him better now. He was pretty good in Shadow Recruit, too, and this role seems to work pretty well for him. I'd actually be interested in seeing him reprise this role again, but it seems like the kind of movie that works best as a one-off (and the poor box office performance will probably prevent even the consideration of a sequel). Hailee was praised for her work in True Grit, but I found her performance in that a little too abrasive (and therefore kind of annoying), even though that's what the character was. She's a lot better here, even if she is more so just playing a parentally scorned teenager with typical teenager (if not straight-up "daddy") issues. She plays off Costner well and they have some pretty good scenes together.
The content pushes the envelope pretty strongly, but it's most likely that this film was originally rated R and had been cut down for a wider audience. In the first 15 or so minutes, Costner mouths, partially speaks and then fully speaks the F word, and then it's later written out clearly in a subtitle and then spoken aloud in Italian. The violence is a lot, but it's not particularly gory (It's about on par with a Taken film). We do see some blood on some fallen victims but the camera often cuts away from the impact of bullets to not show anything really graphic. The roughest moment may be when a thug holds a CIA agent's head in an open elevator doorway and then we see it come down, from the angle of the victim's body and not in view of the actual decapitation. We see no gore but it's obvious to the viewer what has happened. Other blood involves Ethan's nose frequently bleeding a lot because of his condition, and again, some bloody scrapes and such on people's faces from interrogations or scuffles. Sexual content is mostly minor, but there's an awkward sequence when Ethan goes to see Vivi in a strip club and we see a topless dancer blurred out of focus in the foreground. All other shots are obscured by smoke or a glare. We then see two female dancers dancing together seductively. It's a completely unnecessary scene--which also just further clouds the Vivi character.
Overall, fans of Costner or movies like Taken will probably be most interested in 3 Days to Kill. It's pretty edgy at times in the content department, but it's also a rather entertaining thriller, especially for fans of the spy genre. Flawed but still entertaining, it'd probably be a decent rental or spontaneous NetFlix option on a rainy day, but there's really no need to rush out to the theater for this one.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/7/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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