It would be easy to simply call 3 Days to Kill as a bad movie and move on, and I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone one for doing so. The inconsistent thriller concerning the final mission of dying spy Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) dealing with apartment full of an extended family of squatters, reconnecting with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and working for a sexy spy (Amber Heard), immediately after promising his wife he was done with the the agency, to find and kill a target known only as The Wolf (Richard Sammel), is one hell of a B-movie mess.
Costner, who has had some notable voice issues earlier this year causing him to pull out of planned appearances, could give Christian Bale‘s gruff Batman voice a run for its money with his gravel monotone performance here. Despite making assurances he’s given up the life, and without explaining to his wife and daughter how killing dozens of people where they live in Paris might come back to haunt them, Renner agrees to slowly kill his way to The Wolf and his top lieutenant The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis).
From the goofy nature of various character names, the cliched spy who has never been photographed, and the odd mix of Costner dealing with both his impulsive teenager daughter and the squatters in the apartment he hasn’t lived in for years you may expect a zany action-comedy on the level of Shoot ‘Em Up. You’d be mistaken. Tonally, 3 Days to Kill is all over the place never finding a way to comfortably balance the various threads of the movie. Had the film either taken a decidedly darker tone or fully embraced the humor that works well in several scenes it would likely have been far more successful.
And the film’s humor, when embraced, is definitely one of its greatest strengths. The scenes I enjoyed most involved an exasperated Renner being forced to work around the various issues in his life and even letting his two worlds blur together by getting parenting advice from members of The Wolf’s organization (Marc Andréoni, Bruno Ricci) who he kidnaps and tortures (Andréoni repeatedly) not only to find their boss but to also receive some desperately needed parenting advice.
Although only tangential to the overall plot, I must mention Heard’s role in the film which is, in a word, insane. Introduced in the movie’s opening scene as a buttoned-down CIA officer in control of the last field mission of Costner’s character, the scenes with the actress become more and more bizarre as director McG takes perverse glee in further oversexualizing and fetishizing her with each successive appearance. Had the character made one more appearance in the movie it wouldn’t have surprised me to see her clad in latex with twin midgets milking her breasts. The increasingly bizarre scenes feel even further out-of-place concerning how much focus the film’s second-half spends on Renner reconnecting with his daughter.
Offering another obstacle for Renner’s tracking of The Wolf are the odd side-effects of the experimental drug which is part of the CIA’s payment for his involvement in the off-the-books case. In tense situations Renner experiences hallucinations, blurred visions, and blackouts that impair his chances to complete his mission but never actually cause all that much harm to come to the dying spy except to drawn out the end of the mission over a nearly two-hour running time. Along the way 3 Days to Kill will also offer a late twist (one which I recognized immediately, and expect you will too) which is necessary for tie the various storylines together and offer a final climactic shoot-out.
The action scenes themselves aren’t bad, but neither are they highlights of what is an occasionally entertaining, but mostly disappointing, film. Other than Heard’s odd performance (more to do with how her character is portrayed than her acting) and Costner’s growly voice, the perfomances themselves are professional but easily forgettable. At its best moments I’d compare it to a lesser Payback in attempting to mix comedy, action, and a gruff protagonist, but sadly those are few and far between. If it is still showing in a theater near you I would recommend seeking out Costner’s role as a spy in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which not only makes better use of the star but it’s also a far superior film.