31 Days of Action: Day 15 - 3 Days to Kill

I miss the days when Luc Besson’s name being attached to a movie meant it was something I should be excited to check out. Sadly the days of Leon The Professional, The Fifth Element and Transporter 2 have been replaced by the days of The Family and any number of forgettable action vehicles such as Colombiana and Lockout. Now you can also add 3 Days to Kill to the latter category.

This seems to be an attempt to recapture the successful Taken formula of taking a middle aged star perhaps not known for headlining action movies (at least not recently) and building a vehicle around them. There we had Liam Neeson who proved to be so effective in the role of action star that he has had a late in the game career switch, releasing a new action thriller just about every Spring. Here we have Kevin Costner, and I’m guessing the Spring of 2015 will not be featuring a return to this genre for Mr. Costner.

Costner plays Ethan Renner, a CIA agent who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and decides to spend his last few months reconciling with his ex-wife and estranged daughter. However he is approached by an assassin played by Amber Heard (almost a non-entity for the whole movie) who offers him an experimental drug that could increase his life span. In trade, he has to hunt down and kill The Wolf, a criminal nobody has seen except Ethan. Meanwhile his ex-wife has to go out of town for 3 days, leaving Ethan to watch their daughter. But he’s got to assassinate people, he can’t also look after his daughter can he?! Oooo I think we’re in for a crazy ride with this one!

The first problem with 3 Days to Kill is Costner himself. Obviously we know he has proven himself to be a capable actor so long as a fake English accent isn’t involved. However here he seems bored. Yes the character is supposed to be grizzled and dying but the lack of any semblance of enthusiasm starts to wear off on the viewer. If he’s this bored with everything that’s happening then why shouldn’t we be as well?

The story itself is another big problem. Obviously there’s a lack of overall originality here as we’ve seen the hitman trying to balance his family life with murdering people thing done time and time again. I would be willing to forgive that though if it was at least done effectively but it’s really not and the movie fails as both an action movie and as a family drama. There are a couple of decent action scenes but they are few and far between and what we often get is your typical quick cut, shaky-cam garbage that I have been wailing against since the very first day of this marathon. There’s a decent car chase and a couple of ok shootouts but not enough to forgive the often unwatchable family drama that makes up the majority of the film’s running time.

There are a number of issues with the family plot. It’s not engaging or original, it takes itself way too seriously to the point of borderline self-parody and there’s a bizarre focus on riding a purple bicycle that inexplicably keeps coming up again and again. The biggest problem though is that the daughter he’s trying to reconcile with is just the absolute worst. She’s your typical sarcastic teenage girl dialed up to 11. She’s bitchy, whiny and way too sarcastic, finding ways to be upset about every single that is ever happening. I started to think Ethan should just cut his losses and bail as trying to win her over felt pointless. I was completely understanding as to why he didn’t reach out to her for several years. There’s nothing like spending 70% of an action movie watching a family you don’t like try to work things out.

There are lots of other unnecessary elements here that do nothing but make the movie more convoluted than necessary. When Ethan returns to his apartment near the beginning of the movie, he finds a large family squatting there and is told that is illegal to evict them until after the winter. So then we have scenes of him interacting with the family that I thought maybe would be played for comedy but nope, not at all. In fact a scene late in the movie has him taking part in a birth with one of the family members and then learning some life lessons. It adds nothing to the movie and its inclusion is baffling.

Another random piece of business is that the experimental drug Ethan is taking occasionally causes him to hallucinate. Well at least they say it makes him hallucinate but that sounds way more fun than what actually happens, which is that things just look a little blurry to him for a bit. The only way to clear his vision is to drink some vodka. It’s pretty dumb but at first you think they might be able to find some creative uses for this concept. They do not do this. Instead they go back to the well with it time and time again by having his vision start to blur at of course the most inconvenient times. He doesn’t even find clever ways to get out of these situations. One time it happens at a bar so he just casually grabs some alcohol to fix it up. In another it just seems like he shakes it off and is suddenly all better. So it too is a completely useless inclusion.

I think I’ve summed up my thoughts on 3 Days to Kill pretty well at this point. It has a couple of serviceable action scenes amidst a sea of boring and irritating family drama and an endless cavalcade of unnecessary subplots. This isn’t the new Taken, this isn’t even the new Taken 2. It’s just a disposable piece of nonsense you don’t really have to bother with.