Entertainment :: Movies

3 Days to Kill

by Charlie Nash
Contributor
Friday Feb 21, 2014
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Kevin Costner stars in ’3 Days to Kill’
Kevin Costner stars in ’3 Days to Kill’  (Source:Relativity Media)

Ever wonder what "Taken" would be like if Kevin Costner inhabited the Liam Neeson role and, instead of rescuing his kidnapped daughter, she constantly interrupts him in the midst of his violent escapades by calling him on his cell phone to ask arbitrary questions (such as how to cook spaghetti sauce)? That’s basically how "3 Days to Kill" plays out: A queasy, tonally jarring action film with no clear sense of what it wants to be.

Costner plays Ethan Renner, an aging hitman for the CIA who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter, Zoey (played by Hailee Steinfeld) after being informed that he’s dying of cancer and only has three months to live. His life gets even more complicated, however, when he crosses paths with Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), a fellow agent who offers to provide Ethan with an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for completing one final mission to take down an international terrorist known as The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis). In a race against time, not only must Ethan complete the most dangerous assignment of his career, but also learn how to be the father to Zoey that he never was, while simultaneously attempting to keep her out of harm’s way.

To say that "3 Days to Kill" is schizophrenic would be an understatement. It’s loud, messy and wildly incoherent on just about every level, shifting gears between just about every other scene. What’s even worse is that it’s not particularly good at inhabiting any of the genres it attempts to embody, making it all the more baffling.

Sometimes, when a movie swerves back and forth between genres, it can have a bizarre, idiosyncratic kind of appeal if it’s handled properly. "Something Wild" and "Grosse Point Blank" both incorporate a quirky, offbeat sense of humor into stories centered around acts of violence, but those films were able to transition fluidly from one trope to the other while maintaining a strong sense of its own wacky persona.

To say that "3 Days to Kill" is schizophrenic would be an understatement.

"3 Days to Kill," on the other hand, is completely tone-deaf. Ethan beats up a variety of bad guys throughout the course of the film, typically in a straightforward fashion, but whenever his daughter happens to interrupt the situation it awkwardly segues into a lighthearted comedy. For example, a lame running gag throughout the picture is that Zoey has set her personal ringtone on Ethan’s phone to the hit Icona Pop song, "I Love It (I Don’t Care)," so whenever she calls him during a brawl with a bad guy, the scene comes to a halt with Ethan saying, "Oh, sorry, I have to take this. It’s my daughter." This occurs at least three times, and in one particular scene Zoey calls Ethan while he tortures a man with a pair of cable jumpers. It’s kind of astonishing how the film manages to be lazy and utterly distasteful at the same time.

Not to mention that the movie’s depiction of race and gender politics are incredibly troubling. In the beginning, an Asian woman is decapitated off-screen after The Albino places her head in an elevator shaft. Several of The Albino’s goons are foreign, and their race is typically the butt of a stereotypical joke, as in one instance where Ethan puts Zoey on the phone with an Italian man who is tied to a chair, and he states, "Hello, I am a Guido." As for the character of Vivi, some may argue that she’s a strong female character, but let’s not kid ourselves here; she’s portrayed as a sexual object more than anything else.

Costner, who’s been able to salvage some campy fun out of other trashy films such as "Mr. Brooks," manages to get a few guilt-pleasure chuckles here and there, but his performance alone can’t save this film from being a total train wreck. Unfortunately, neither can Hailee Steinfeld, who always has a charming screen presence, and after her riveting turn in "True Grit," it’s a shame to see her play such a blandly written teenage girl who often becomes the damsel in distress. As for Amber Heard, well, she’s clearly having fun, but she’s also terribly miscast, and something tells me that she wasn’t exactly hired for her "acting abilities."

Directed by McG of "This Means War" and "Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle" fame, "3 Days to Kill" is relentlessly icky in its attempt to be a hybrid of violent action sequences, sitcom-esque humor and corny family drama. In many aspects, it feels like a Michael Bay film, only with fewer explosions and more contrived, gooey sentimentality, and even that thematic decision boggles my mind, because who exactly is the target audience for this film? It’s too violent for kids, too sappy for hardcore action-aficionados, and just too dopey for everyone else. Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a film that will probably be forgotten by the end of the year, and deservedly so.

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