I first learned about 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014) thanks to a review by my friend Deb at Sidewalk Crossings, and I also enjoyed it very much. The film is an eccentric mashup of 007 and domestic drama, with a touch of medical sci-fi on the side. One definitely needs to suspend disbelief at the outset, but any Kevin Costner fan willing to go along for the ride is likely to have a good time with this film.
I've been a Costner fan since his breakout role in SILVERADO (1985), and, as always, he owns the screen. Costner plays Ethan Renner, a 007-style CIA agent exceptionally skilled in carrying out hits on terrorists and other bad actors.
Hospitalized after a mission, he learns that his cough is the result of terminal cancer, and he determines to spend his remaining time connecting with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), who live in Paris.
Then suddenly Vivi (Amber Heard) shows up, a CIA agent who wants Ethan to undertake the proverbial "one last mission." As payment Vivi dangles immediate treatment with an experimental drug which might delay or cure his cancer. With the drug plus assurance of a large payout to take care of his family when he's gone, Ethan sets in motion plans to take out the bad guy -- the very same week he's watching out for his teenage daughter while his wife is on a business trip. No one ever said being a real dad would be easy...
Costner is the essence of a genuine movie star, the kind that's fairly rare in this day and age. Here he's terrific as an agent for whom taking out bad guys is just another day at the office; he's no longer young but the benefit is he knows every trick in the book.
One of the scenes I enjoyed most is when Ethan rescues his daughter from being attacked by some men at a nightclub. She has no idea what her father does for a living and discovers that ol' dad is someone you don't mess with! (If only she remembered it the next day...) There are some very nice and believable scenes where they reconnect; her response to his exasperation regarding her not knowing how to ride a bike is genuinely touching.
In another wise decision, the script avoids the usual cliche of the baddies targeting Ethan's wife or daughter. It was a relief they were left alone as part of Ethan's personal story, although they happen to be at the event where the final shootout takes place. Likewise, we're teased that something might have happened to a likeable family of squatters who have taken over Ethan's run-down Paris apartment, but good decisions were made there as well.
The issue of Ethan's illness is also handled with a light touch. The movie is a fantasy take on the disease, with a magical antidote which extends his life. Either you want to buy into it or you don't.
In short, this is a relaxing, fun time at the movies. It won't ever win an Oscar, but it will provide a couple hours of quite diverting entertainment, and I was happy I spent time with it. It's a movie I'll want to watch again in the future.
Heard was particularly fun as Ethan's CIA handler Vivi, herself a ruthless assassin on the side of the good guys. Vivi is an ersatz Mary Poppins who floats in and out of Ethan's life, showing up with his missing watch or bike -- or to offer experimental medical treatment -- wearing a different "look" every time. One of the best shots in the movie is simply of her high-heeled shoe kicking a gun during the climatic shoot-out -- really a well-done moment. There's also a great shot of her at the end, raising more questions than answers.
The movie runs 117 minutes and was directed by McG (THIS MEANS WAR). The script was by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak. It was filmed by Thierry Arbogast.
Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13 for some sensuality, language, and violence. In terms of all three it's a pretty mild PG-13 rating. The violence is of the bloodless, cartoony nature of movies like MR. & MRS. SMITH (2005), THE TOURIST (2010), KNIGHT AND DAY (2010), and other films of that type.
The trailer is at IMDb.
Additional "new" movies reviewed this year: JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (2014), THE MONUMENTS MEN (2014), THE LEGO MOVIE (2014), THE WIND RISES (2013), and NON-STOP (2014).