‘3 Days to Kill’: Wait, what just happened?
By RICHARD ROEPER Movie Columnist February 20, 2014 2:04PM
Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is an absentee father to Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), trying to make up for lost time by teaching her how to ride a bicycle, in Paris, in “3 Days to Kill.” | Relativity Media
‘3 DAYS TO KILL’ ★★★
Ethan Renner Kevin Costner
Zooey Renner Hailee Steinfeld
Vivi Delay Amber Heard
Christine Renner Connie Nielsen
Relativity Media presents a film directed by McG and written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: March 22, 2014 6:10AM
Wow, that was so bad it was pretty great. The term Guilty Pleasure was invented for this kind of movie.
Nearly every other scene in “3 Days to Kill” is so audaciously terrible, you don’t know whether to cringe or chortle.
Time and again in this movie, I saw things I don’t think I’d ever seen before on the big screen. Just a few examples:
◆ A father teaching his 16-year-old daughter to ride a purple bicycle in a Parisian plaza, as the locals look on and offer encouragement and applause.
◆ A multi-generational family of wise and kind squatters that has taken over an empty apartment and seem to have the means to paint the place, redecorate and cook wonderful, candle-lit dinners as they wait for one of their own to give birth. I almost expected three wise men to show up when the child was born.
◆ An assassin telling one of his marks he’s not going to kill him “because you’re the father that knows best.” That’s not a code. The mark is actually the father of twin teenage daughters that dress identically.
◆ A brief phone call in which one spy says to another, “The Albino is staying at the Grand Hotel.” How great is that!
Oh, and there’s also a reprise of one of Kevin Costner’s most iconic film moments from 20 years ago. Let’s just say they should have cued the Whitney Houston music.
What’s that? Story? OK, let’s give it a shot.
Kevin Costner, who has a weighty, old-school, movie star presence whether he’s in a quality film or a piece of schlock, is all grizzled and gruff as Ethan Renner, the obligatory aging CIA hit man who can “clean” a room filled with henchmen half his age without working up a sweat. When Ethan learns he has just a few months to live, he bids adieu to the agency and heads to Paris to reconnect with his estranged wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and his 16-year-old daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), whom he hasn’t seen in about a half-dozen years.
Ah, the old “I was never around” secret agent rescue fantasy plotline!
Sporting a number of S/M outfits more befitting a soft-core dominatrix model than a high-level CIA operative, Amber Heard’s Vivi Delay — you heard me, Vivi Delay — tells Ethan she can give him doses of a magic, experimental medication that could prolong his life. All Ethan has to do is agree to kill a couple of notorious bad guys known as The Wolf and The Albino, and Vivi Delay — you heard me, Vivi Delay — will give Ethan $50,000, a $1 million life insurance policy and regular doses of that experimental medication, which by the way creates terrible side effects that leave Ethan bleeding from the nose, hallucinating and collapsing at all the wrong times.
Given that Vivi has Grand Prix-level driving skills, is a skilled shot and seems to know every move the Wolf and the Albino make, it’s not entirely clear why she needs Ethan at all, but who cares, it’s terrific fun watching Ethan pursue his targets while trying to bond with his rebellious daughter. Hey, if you’re about to torture a Sicilian-born accountant named Guido while you’re on the phone with your kid as she’s fretting about not knowing how to cook a meal for her boyfriend, why NOT put Guido the Sicilian Accountant on the phone so he can share his mama’s secret recipe?
This is the kind of inspired lunacy that makes “3 Days to Kill” such a zany treat. Costner plays Ethan as a kind of Eastwoodian straight man who has fallen through the rabbit hole and is navigating his way through one insanely surreal adventure after another, whether he’s rescuing his daughter from three predators in the bathroom at a rave; torturing a victim by duct-taping his hairy armpits and then letting it rip; taking time out to attend a principal-parent conference at the school; engaging in broad-daylight shootouts that you’d think would attract the attention of the French authorities; or selecting Bread’s “Make It With You” as the musical choice when teaching his daughter how to dance. You’ll not likely see a film with more mind-boggling moments than this one.
Some of this lunacy no doubt comes from co-writer Luc Besson, who has been a major contributing force to “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element” and the “Taken” and “Transporter” franchises. The director known as McG (“Charlie’s Angels,” “Terminator: Salvation”) is not one for subtlety, whether he’s coming up with new ways to kill someone (this is one of the more violent PG-13 films you’ll ever see) or reaching for your heart, and he goes full-throttle here.
But without Costner’s movie star equity, this thing could have fallen apart in the first 30 minutes. He keeps us involved, even as we’re thinking: Wait, WHAT just happened?
On an analytical level, I knew this movie was nothing but snazzy trash, but I cannot deny I was thoroughly entertained.