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Humor is the Secret Weapon in "3 Days to Kill"

Movies & DVDs

Release Date: February 21, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language)
Genre: Action/Crime
Run Time: 113 min.
Director: McG
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielson, Tomas Lemarquis, Richard Sammel, Bruno Ricci


Aside from the television mini-series Hatfields & McCoys that aired back in 2012, it's been a while since Kevin Costner has played the leading man. But after a couple of successful supporting turns in Man of Steel and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Costner is now channeling his inner Liam Neeson in a movie that feels eerily reminiscent of Taken.

Considering that Luc Besson, the writer and producer of Taken and Taken 2, also penned the screenplay for 3 Days to Kill, well, the similarities are probably no accident. Since audiences have flocked to his previous films, why mess too much with a formula that’s already worked, right?

In terms of pure popcorn entertainment, 3 Days to Kill is actually a lot more fun than Taken and its so-so sequel. While the plot is just as preposterous with the audience's full suspension of disbelief required, the secret weapon in 3 Days to Kill is humor. While no one will mistake 3 Days to Kill for great art, the artfully choreographed action sequences and zingy script provide an enjoyable-enough diversion that's never boring.

In the role of the aging hero, Costner is definitely in on the joke and is clearly having fun kicking the bad guys to the curb. Looking tired, cranky and a little rough around the edges, Costner plays Ethan, a lifetime CIA assassin who's recently been issued a death sentence.

As it turns out, the cough he couldn't quite shake is something far worse—terminal brain cancer. Given only months to live, Ethan desperately wants to make amends with the family he's never made a priority. So he heads to Paris to reconnect with his wife Christine (Connie Nielsen, TV's The Following) and teenage daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit).

Naturally, mother and daughter are both skeptical of Ethan's motives, but reluctantly give him a chance to prove himself. While Christine is a relatively soft touch, especially when Ethan promises he's left his dangerous work behind for good, Zooey is far more difficult to win over. Smack dab in the middle of her teenage rebellious phase, she thinks her dad is far too lame to take seriously.

When Christine is summoned for a last-minute business trip in London, however, Ethan sees it as an opportunity to step up to the plate. Volunteering to stay with Zooey, Ethan hopes to be a loving, engaged father for the first time. But his first stab at full-time parenting is about to get even more complicated, thanks to an employment offer he can't refuse.

Knowing Ethan doesn't really have anything to lose because of his recent diagnosis, a vampy CIA operative named ViVi (an under-utilized Amber Heard, The Rum Diary) tracks him down in Paris for one last job. In exchange for a few hits on a mysterious arms dealer and his equally lethal cohorts, she'll provide generous compensation and experimental meds that might prolong his life.

Of course, this is when the story segues into full-on ridiculous territory as Ethan is forced to multi-task. No doubt, keeping up with a daughter who admittedly lies a lot and the dangerous men he’s supposed to track down and kill isn’t easy, but Ethan makes it work somehow. And whether he's soliciting parenting advice from the informant he's tied up and thrown in his trunk or finding out the squatters who now inhabit his apartment have more rights than he does, a function of the epically flawed French police force, the leaps of logic are handled in a light and surprisingly funny fashion.

What's equally unexpected in 3 Days to Kill is a strong emotional component. In the midst of all the bombastic action scenes and beautiful shots of the City of Lights, there are genuinely moving scenes of a father who is desperate to connect with his daughter. Helping to keep potential cheesiness at bay, Costner and Steinfeld are believable in their respective roles, and inevitably, that's what makes 3 Days to Kill a step above your average action film. 

Along with all the shoot 'em up hysterics, there's some actual character development to elevate what's usually a pretty insipid genre. But for anyone who wants to simply check their brain at the door, 3 Days to Kill offers plenty of mindless thrills, too.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking—some scenes involve underage teens. An experimental drug that could help extend Ethan’s life often causes him to hallucinate.
  • Language/Profanity: Two variations of the f-word, plus instances where God's name is taken in vain. A few additional profanities including he--, as-hole, dam--, bit—and sh--.
  • Sex/Nudity: A couple of sexual innuendos. Vivi conducts a meeting at a bar with exotic dancers working the poles. At one point, two of the female dancers briefly kiss. Ethan rescues his Zooey from being raped at a club. It’s implied that Ethan and his estranged wife Christine sleep together. Ethan encourages his teenage daughter to make good decisions with her boyfriend on prom night (we see them alone in his bedroom kissing but nothing more).
  • Violence: Multiple scenes involving gunfire fatalities. A woman is decapitated when she’s strategically placed in an elevator shaft. A man is thrown in front of a moving train. A man is nearly taken out by a deli meat cutter. A man is tied up and thrown in a trunk. Some people die as a result of explosives.

Publication date: February 21, 2014

Page Source (url): http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/movies/3-days-to-kill-movie-review.html

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