3 Days to Kill

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Release: Friday, February 21, 2014

[Theater]

Yes, we are indeed struggling through February, aren’t we? Officially in the shadow of Judgment Day, otherwise known as the 86th Academy Awards Ceremony — an event so big its given a whole new name to the day on which it falls. Oscars Sunday has all but ensured that the six-ish weeks leading up to it will be filled with film releases that don’t even bother trying to be good.

For anyone who doesn’t have a cot set up in back of their local theater, this time period makes no difference, but for those who consider the theater home away from home already know January and February to be the infamously treacherous part of the calendar year. To have so much influence as to cause quality filmmakers to go into hibernating for a couple of months is the kind of influence I’d like to have. That’s power you can’t buy, but that good old Oscar has.

Kevin Costner gives off a similar effect in his latest film 3 Days to Kill, a film that from the outside looks like a terribly lazy afterthought of an action-thriller. Costner lumbers across the screen with a sense of sarcasm and indifference towards the material that just screams he’s getting paid pretty handsomely to be “that guy.” That guy we all wish we were because he effortlessly gets his way with the baddies; that guy we all wish we were because he gets to stand beside Amber Heard in yet another over-the-top provocative role; that guy we all wish we were because he gets the best of both worlds — being the biggest box office draw for the film and being the best thing about it (coincidence, I think not).

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She ain’t talkin’ to nun of ya’s. . .

But I will not lie to you, I went to see this for Amber Heard. I know, I know, there goes all my credibility. . .

In McG’s latest directorial effort, “that guy” is a dying Secret Service agent named Ethan Renner who is particularly good at his job but not at being a family man. He has spent years away from wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and has barely known his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfield) but when he learns he has a terminal cancer, he tries his hardest to get back in contact with them in Paris, where they currently live. But due to a development during a mission shown at the opening of the film, we realize his work life will seemingly never leave him alone. A mysterious and unapologetically attractive agent, Vivi (Heard) tracks him down and offers him an experimental drug that could improve his life span, in exchange for one last job. He is tasked with finding and killing ‘The Wolf,’ a really, really bad man who has done a bunch of bad stuff.

Now Ethan finds himself in between a rock and a hard place trying to reacquaint himself with his own family and keeping them out of danger — which is what he apparently has been doing by being separated from them for years. His guilt over the circumstances is met with cold indifference from Vivi, and his wife and daughter aren’t fans of him at first to say the least. Slowly though, Zoey allows Ethan into her life when mom goes out of town on a business trip, leaving Ethan with the parental responsibilities. This is all while he’s coughing and spluttering like a baby refusing Gerber’s food, an ailment his daughter finds ‘annoying’ but isn’t aware is actually a serious problem.

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Forget the horrible headaches and constant nausea, he’s got a job to do!

The sum total of 3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining movie about mixing business with personal lives. Indeed it’s a release in the dreaded month of February, but watching a Kevin Costner having fun with a considerably underdeveloped story is an experience actually worth having. Even Heard doesn’t take herself too seriously this time around, which has been the issue I’ve had in defending her as a decent actress all this time. She is not great in this one either, but she shares a few moments with Costner that do nothing but slap a goofy grin on the viewer’s face.

There are many moments when the pair aren’t sharing the screen that offer up some good chuckles as well. A scene in which Ethan is extracting cooking advice from one of his hostages and giving it to his daughter on the phone right before he proceeds to presumably torture the poor Italian. . .with duct tape. . .stands out above the rest. Ethan gets to know a man named Mitat (Marc Andréoni) who is a loving husband and father of two “good” girls, but who also suffers from dirty hand syndrome thanks to his shady business dealings with Ethan’s targets. Together they form a mismatched pair of men trying to do the right thing but failing more often than succeeding. Their repeated mistakes are a bit baffling, but in a movie like this trying to wring logic from the film is a little like peeing into the wind.

3 Days to Kill does fall into that ever-broadening category of being dumb, loud entertainment but at this stage in the game, that’s as good as it is going to get prior to the Oscars ceremony. An action-thriller that’s unburdened by standards and expectations, and has no chance of being remembered in two months’ time, McG has had far worse to offer. Surely there are going to be contenders for much more quality-depraved releases this time of year.

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Recommendation: A film that is much better than it had any right to be, 3 Days to Kill offers fun and engaging action sequences with an emphasis on family values. At times the two themes conflict in very distracting ways but more often than not the film is harmless fun, especially seeing Kevin Costner all but sleepwalk through the role of an estranged father/husband while getting hit on by a sumptuous Vivi. It’s all ridiculous, but isn’t this why you’re curious about this review in the first place?

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “Hello, I am a Guido.”

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