‘3 Days to Kill’ too busy to appreciate

‘3 Days to Kill’ too busy to appreciate

By Karsten Burgstahler

Writer/producer Luc Besson is known in Hollywood for his ruthlessly efficient, seedy European thrillers, particularly the Liam Neeson “Taken” franchise.

But when Besson, who favors brutal fights, works with director McG, known for his flashy stylized action scenes, the two are like freight trains in a head-on collision. The audience for this unholy duo’s “3 Days to Kill” (Rated PG-13; 113 Min.) is caught in the bloated crossfire.

However, “3 Days” is not a complete waste, particularly because of a fine performance from its leading man. Kevin Costner stars as Ethan Renner, a CIA operative known for his assassination techniques. He’s dying of cancer and only has a few months to live, so he attempts to make amends with the daughter and wife he never had time for.


Because this is a Besson movie and fathers/daughters can’t have a good relationship (Exhibit A: “Taken”), Renner is whisked away and given an ultimatum. The CIA has an experimental drug that could save his life, but if he wants it he has to finish one more target: The Wolf (Richard Sammel). Oh, and he must drink copious amounts of vodka with the drug to avoid losing control. And he has to keep his heart rate down or he will die. It’s like “Speed” but for real. Don’t worry though, the movie makes these plot points and moves so quickly away from them that when they become important later on, the audience has already forgotten them.

Therein lies “3 Days’” main problem: it moves from plot point to plot point without much regard for what has come before. That’s McG impressing himself on the film and Besson trying to pull it from his grasp.

Perhaps the most crucial element missing is a better explanation why the movie is called “3 Days to Kill.” The only reference to the title is Renner’s wife leaving for London and telling him he has “three days to kill” spending time with his daughter. The trailer insinuates Renner has been poisoned and has three days before he will die, creating a solid deadline to get the drug. But it is as if the plot was changed at the last minute and is now missing that double-edged sword.

Most of the movie involves Renner interrogating members of The Wolf’s inner circle to find his whereabouts, while also asking their advice on raising a daughter. To their credit, Costner and Besson never drop anything like the classic Lethal Weapon line “I’m too old for this s—.” Costner is too classy an actor to let this movie slip from his hands, so he patiently wades his way through the muck as a calmer, more sophisticated version of Neeson’s Bryan Mills.

But Costner’s collected demeanor is outshadowed at nearly every corner by his CIA handler, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), who must own about a dozen wigs and puts every one of them to use. These two are an apt metaphor for Besson and McG; one representing rigid control and the other bathing in chaos.

Because the movie’s rapid pacing suggests an editor with attention deficit disorder, two extra storylines don’t receive the attention they deserve: Renner’s relationship with his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), which never feels real, and the relationship he builds with the family of squatters who took over his apartment while he was away. At several points Renner drags suspects back to his apartment and employs the family’s youngest child to keep guard while the interrogation occurs in the bathroom. Later, Renner is present when the family’s daughter gives birth. This subplot could have been an interesting movie on its own, rather than being shoehorned in.

“3 Days to Kill” isn’t really a bad “anything” movie — it’s not a bad action flick, it’s not a bad comedy and it’s not a bad drama. It just does not excel in any of those categories because it jumbles them all together. Just like Vivi with her countless wigs, “3 Days” falters under an identity crisis.


Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.