Review: 3 Days to Kill (2014)

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Director: McG
Screenwriters: Luc Besson & Adi Hasak
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Richard Sammel, Eriq Ebouaney & Tómas Lemarquis
Runtime: 117 min // Certificate: 12a


Like appearances, promotional material can be deceptive. If you’ve seen the trailer for 3 Days to Kill you’ll no doubt be expecting some sort of Taken-esque action thriller, with Mr Costner (Dances with Wolves) in the Liam Neeson role. I know I was. So, imagine both my surprise and my chagrin to discover that 3 Days to Kill is in fact a laughable – though tragically unfunny – family drama, better suited to the Lifetime channel than to cinemas, packed to breaking point as it is with terminal illnesses, tense Father-Daughter relationships and even some catastrophically misjudged scenes of “compassionate” race relations. What a swindle!

The plot, if one can call it that, sees Costner’s ex-CIA agent Ethan Renner given just a few months to live after he discovers he is riddled with terminal cancer. In a bid to make amends for past mistakes, he attempts to reconnect with his wife Christine (Nielsen; Rushmore) and teenage daughter Zoey (Steinfeld; Ender’s Game) in Paris (see how much it wishes it was Taken?). However, he soon finds himself thrown back into his work when a mysterious CIA agent, Vivi Delay (Heard; All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), turns up and offers him the chance to extend his life with an experimental new drug. Over the next three days (he has 3 days to kill. Get it? Yeah, I know…), Ethan must juggle his duties to the CIA with his duties to his daughter, getting into all sorts of hilarious high jinks in the process! Or not, as the case may be…

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The main problem with 3 Days to Kill is obvious; even on paper the idea is a total non-starter. Costner’s general lack of charisma, not to mention the fact he is the least likely action star on the planet, means that even if by some minor miracle the multiple underdeveloped plot threads did come together to make some sort of coherent whole, the film still wouldn’t work because it’s impossible to buy into the leading man. I mean he tries his best, bless him, but unlike Liam Neeson, Costner is much too delicate and gentle to convince in a role like this. He just about pulls off the atrocious “Dad humour” aspect of the film, but whenever he’s required to kick ass and take names it all feels terribly embarrassing.

Nonetheless, it’s cruel and unreasonable to pin the blame on Costner for the fact that 3 Days to Kill is a complete dud because it’s really not his fault, rather it is the fault of everyone else involved in its production. McG directs with all the restraint of a sexually frustrated teenager, yet he still somehow manages to make an unpardonably insipid film that packs not one single thrill or emotional punch in its near two-hour runtime. The screenplay, written by Luc Besson (Taken again!) and Adi Hasak, is an infuriating mish-mash of mawkish, drippy nonsense and unintentionally hilarious super-spy stuff, while the action sequences have all the grace and charm of… well, of a film directed by Kevin Costner.

You don’t need me to tell you to avoid this one. You already knew it was going to be shite, but you can be forgiven for thinking it might at least be enjoyable shite. It’s not. It’s just a steaming pat of runny, shouldn’t-have-had-a-curry-last-night shite. Were the comedy even half-decent or were the action set pieces a bit less playful then the film might have stood a chance but as it stands, neither the hokey family drama stuff nor the rogue CIA agent plot work on their own, yet alone in conjunction with one another. The performances are terrible, the plot is unbearable and the less said about the ugly look and feel of the thing, the better.

Skip this and just watch Taken again. Skip this and go for a walk in the park. Skip this and sit in a darkened room with a nest of vipers. Whatever you decide to do, if you ever find yourself with 2 hours to kill then please don’t waste them watching 3 Days to Kill. You’ll only regret it in the end.