PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

'3 Days to Kill' is Okay if You Have 100 Minutes to Lose

Kevin Costner may be on some kind of career comeback, but 3 Days to Kill won't bring him to where he once was before. It's acceptable, if unexceptional entertainment.


3 Days to Kill

Director: McG
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Richard Sammel, Eriq Ebouaney
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Relativity Media
Year: 2014
US date: 2014-02-21 (General release)

It happened sometime around 1994. Kevin Costner, superstar. Kevin Costner, Oscar winner. Kevin Costner, American everyman and all around cinematic good egg was riding a wave of success that included his own Academy Award earning effort (Dances with Wolves), a beloved bit of magic realism (Field of Dreams), a searing look at the Kennedy Assassination (JFK), and the two strikes and you're out insider overview of the nation's (former) past time (Bull Durham). Sure, there were some questionable career choices thrown in amongst the gold (The Bodyguard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the attempted acting stretch of A Perfect World) but it seemed that, for all intents and purposes, Costner was an A-lister whose celebrity would outlast other dime a dozen dramatic/comic leading men. He was both a commercial and critical hit.

It happened sometime around 1994. Kevin Costner, superstar. Kevin Costner, Oscar winner. Kevin Costner, American everyman and all around cinematic good egg was riding a wave of success that included his own Academy Award earning effort (Dances with Wolves), a beloved bit of magic realism (Field of Dreams), a searing look at the Kennedy Assassination (JFK), and the two strikes and you're out insider overview of the nation's (former) past time (Bull Durham). Sure, there were some questionable career choices thrown in amongst the gold (The Bodyguard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the attempted acting stretch of A Perfect World) but it seemed that, for all intents and purposes, Costner was an A-lister whose celebrity would outlast other dime a dozen dramatic/comic leading men. He was both a commercial and critical hit.

Then the backlash set in for his revisionist Western (which beat Goodfellas for both Best Picture and Best Director, believe it or not). Then Waterworld hit and sank like a flooded metropolis. Wyatt Earp was usurped by Tombstone and Tin Cup looked like an obvious attempt at recapturing past sports film glory. In 1994, however, it all came crashing down. Costner offered up his second credited directorial effort (though many believed he made most of Waterworld as well), the dystopian future shock claptrap known as The Postman, and suddenly, his supposedly polished public and professional persona was tarnished. Around that same time, Costner divorced his wife of 16 years, starting stumbling into the TMZ tabloid spotlight, and saw the typical pile of substantive scripts laid at his door dwindle to a paltry few.

Over the last 20 years, he's maintained his profile while picking through the minimal choices he was given. Some were very good indeed (Thirteen Days, Open Range). Others marked the maneuvering of a man still trying to suss out his options (Dragonfly, Swing Vote, Rumor Has It... ). Now, it looks like Costner has shifted over into competent character actor mode. He was excellent as Superman's dad in Man of Steel and recently reinvented the CIA operative overseer for the Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit reboot. Yet as a lead, Costner continues to find the pickings slim. Case in point - 3 Days to Kill. Forged inside that noted French Action Factory - otherwise known as co-writer/producer Luc Besson - and helmed by another has-been, McG, this attempted action comedy with dopey dramatic family tussle overtones may seem like the kind of thing Costner could play in his sleep. Sadly, no one told him and the rest of the cast to be so somnambulistic as a result.

This is dull, derivative stuff, the kind of self-referential swill they needs someone more clever than the maker of the two Charlie's Angels movies to deliver. McG may have found a niche in the more ludicrous action/RomCom field (we liked This Means War, so sue us) but you expect something more vital from the man who made Terminator: Salvation (on second thought...). Anyway, Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA agent who is trying to reconnect with his estranged family - wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and angry teenager daughter - as if there is any other kind in the movies - Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld, a long way from the Coens' True Grit remake). This sudden desire to do right by his significant others comes from the fact that Ethan has found out he is dying. Of course, just as he tries to make things right, a high ranking CIA operative named Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) shows up with an offer he will find hard to refuse.

You see, the US Government can give Ethan access to an experimental drug that 'may' extend his life. All he has to do is agreed to take down The Wolf (Richard Sammuel), a nuclear weapons dealer who likes working with the terrorists. One last job and...well, you can guess the rest. For some reason, right at the very moment that Ethan is agreeing to the deal, Christine is called away on business and Daddy is stuck looking after his pouty, pain in the a-dolescent. Naturally, trying to keep her out of harm's way is not going to be easy and The Wolf (and his associates, The Albino and The Accountant...no, seriously) wants to make sure that anyone who tries to take him down will pay the ultimate price. Meanwhile, the audience has to put up with the same old father/daughter shtick, Paris pours on the local charm, and McG tries his best to make the action feel fun and frenetic. He almost succeeds. Almost.

Indeed, 3 Days to Kill is like one of those late night stumble across time sucks where you know what you're watching is weak, but it's basically innocuous and capable of filling an otherwise nondescript 90 minutes of your time. Costner is just fine, his costars capable, and the atmosphere argues for both potential excitement and energy. Yet, when viewed in total, it's the Shakespeare of star vehicles - full of sound and fury (and proposed funny business), but ultimately signifying nothing. You're never invested in Costner as a character, you never fear for his family dynamic - Heck, there is even something unbelievable about the death diagnosis. It's almost as if Besson (in collaboration with From Paris With Love's Adi Hasak) realized that the whole "last job" angle wasn't enough to keep a contemporary crowd engaged and so he added both a personal and an interpersonal threat to get us involved. It doesn't fly.

Even worse, we are still suffering from the overly shaky, heavily edited school of thrills here. McG is usually a little more controlled, but there are at least two action sequences that are ruined by our inability to easily follow what's happening. Also, there are red flag herrings everywhere, from Heard's tight skirts and bright red glossy lips to The Wolf's ambiguous end game. Again, the scripting is just too sloppy to provide a clever resolution to a myriad of loose ends. Actors and their various aesthetics can only provide so much support for this kind of movie. Without the intricate plot machination or clever last act twists, we are taken for a ride we won't remember once it's over. Kevin Costner may be on some kind of career comeback, but 3 Days to Kill won't bring him to where he once was before. It's acceptable, if unexceptional entertainment.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.