3 Days to Kill is not short on style—not too big a surprise with a writer/director combo like Luke Besson and McG, two men who have never shied away from a flashy action sequence. And credit where credit is due, the film has a clever, gritty style when it comes time for it to show off its special effects budget.
Unfortunately, tonally, the film is never quite sure exactly what it wants to be—a gritty action film, a action/comedy hybrid or just another family drama. Ultimately, that makes 3 Days to Kill feel uneven and disjointed, despite having its moments in all three categories.
Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a terminally ill CIA agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) before he dies. He returns to his home in Paris to be with her, only to be offered that all too familiar “one last job” with the added caveat that it might be able to cure him out of his ailment. And so he tries to juggle the demands of being a contract killer for the CIA and doing right by his daughter.
One would think that this would play more to the comedy end of the spectrum, in the vein of a 21 Jump Street or a Mr. & Mrs. Smith. But the film is oddly sentimental when it comes to its father/daughter pairing and plays many of its main action sequences with a reasonable amount of seriousness.
That’s not to say that over-the-top quippy sort of element isn’t in the script – just that the product on the screen doesn’t seem to lend itself well to it. Costner himself plays much of the comedy in a fairly understated manner, which works fine in some of the script’s more subtle musings. But when 3 Days to Kill does go broad, the former feels as out of place as the latter and the whole movie is thrown off balance.
The supporting characters are rather ho-hum as well. The addition of Renner’s ex-wife just seems to muddle the plot. The villains, while not devoid of personality, have rather generic movie bad guy backstories. And Amber Heard’s CIA handler comes across like a cartoon character with multiple personality disorder. It’s meant to be entertaining, but it ends up being more distracting than anything else.
3 Days to Kill is full of strange choices though. For a movie enamoured with the beauty of Europe (and written by a European), it does not seem to like its people very much, running through a checklist of kooky stereotypes for its main character to sneer at.
Likewise, without ruining too much, Renner’s final “choice” at the end of the movie is so ridiculously pieced together that it undercuts virtually all of its significance.
And don’t even get me started on the bizarre family of squatters thrown in seemingly at random.
On a side note, I do want to give the film credit for having a surprisingly strong soundtrack. I don’t mean to overgeneralize here, but I’d be willing to bet that Costner brings in more of the older crowd (which is why reviewing this for a university paper is such a smart guy idea), and right or wrong, that’s not a group I usually associate with snappy scores.
Regardless, 3 Days to Kill takes too many unnecessary detours on its way to a largely mediocre showing. Somewhere out there, there may have been a version of this movie that worked—particularly if it just picked one version—but what shows up on the screen is largely a miss.
Final Score: 2/5