Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: when a grizzled CIA agent thinks he is out, he’s pulled back in for one final job. Sounds familiar, right? Well, that’s why 3 Days To Kill tries to spice things up a bit: our CIA agent Ethan is dying of cancer and the reason he accepts this last assignment is because he’s offered an experimental cure. His final mission requires him to track down and eliminate a target, but meanwhile our hero’s also trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter and, to a lesser extent, with his wife. Despite the film’s efforts to offer a more engaging and interesting narrative by combining these ideas, the movie falls flat: all its components never quite come together, which makes for a disjointed viewing experience.
That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining: the plot’s pulpy schlock for sure, but the story itself makes for a good enough premise. 3 Days To Kill‘s start is promising: Ethan and team are on a mission to confiscate a dirty bomb from a target but, naturally, nothing goes as it should. The beginning segment perfectly sets up the villains, introduces Ethan’s skills, health problems and family issues, it even introduces Evan’s future handler, the mysterious femme fatale Vivi. While nothing is even remotely original it works fine and moves at a steady pace. It’s the usual spy action thriller material, especially if you’re familiar with writer Luc Besson’s oeuvre, the likes of Léon and La Femme Nikita. But it’s only after its opening where 3 Days To Kill starts making serious mistakes: the cliched and forced family drama slows the movie to a crawl and gets away from what makes the film work, namely Kevin Costner’s Ethan efficiently and occasionally brutally dealing with shady individuals with names like The Albino and The Wolf. The movie tries to move from silly to grounded, from funny to serious, and back again, but it never manages to be anything other than jarring.
Why 3 Days To Kill is still quite a fun watch is because of Kevin Costner: he proves that he can still carry a film and that his range is a force to be reckoned with. Like in the underrated Mr. Brooks Costner gets to act cold, cruel, nasty and murderously efficient, and also much like in that movie these qualities are contrasted with his softer, warmer caring side as a father and a husband. The actor makes his character and the entire plot much more effective than they have any right to be: the writing is half-baked, consists of people frequently and randomly cycling through their emotional states until the plot calls for resolution. While True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld as Ethan’s daughter does the best with the material she’s given, and Amber Heard plays the part of Ethan’s handler with stunning beauty and playful cool, their efforts can never fully get 3 Days To Kill to work.
3 Days To Kill is quite entertaining at times, but there’s too much that doesn’t work. It keeps the movie from being enjoyable throughout. 5/10