By Mike Dub
To describe in depth the myriad clichés that are splattered throughout the many plotlines of the putrid new Kevin Costner action flick 3 Days to Kill would take up all the space of this review. Suffice to say, it is a terrible spy thriller; a terrible estranged-father family drama; a terrible fish-out-water comedy; a terrible heartfelt story about immigrants’ struggles; and a terrible meditation on death and dying.
The spy angle focuses on CIA agent Ethan Renner (some sort of in-joke combining the names of Ethan Hunt, the Tom Cruise character from Mission: Impossible, and Jeremy Renner, who is set to take over the franchise?), who retires to Paris after having been recently diagnosed with cancer. He is pulled back in for – say it with me – “one last job,” by sexy superior agent Vivi (Amber Heard, though she might as well have been played by a blowup doll), who seems to enjoy her time in Paris floating between underground sex clubs and The Red Room from Twin Peaks.
She offers him a deal: she can provide an experimental cancer drug if he kills a global terrorist named Wolfgang and his albino second in command. Foreshadowing the utter ineptitude of the script to follow, in the opening scene we learn that, naturally, the two criminals are known as “The Wolf” and “The Albino,” nicknames so insipid they make Kevin “The Servant” Durant sound badass.
The Parisian setting allows the film to enlist a panoply of offensive caricatures, including such stock figures as an evil German, a kooky Muslim (the music he listens to is funny because it’s different!), and a squeaky Italian who does everything short of declaring the spiciness of a meat-a-ball. The torture scenes are horrifying, in that they are played for laughs. One gag has a Ethan hooking electrodes to a suspect’s ears, and then shocking him with a car battery (in public). Hilarious.
In the family story, we learn that Ethan left his wife Tina (Connie Nielsen) and young daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) several years ago to work as a field agent. After finding out he has cancer, he reunites with them in Paris to try to reconnect before he dies. His wife doesn’t trust him, but decides to leave town for a weekend, leaving her beloved 16-year-old daughter in the trust of an unreliable stranger, whom she knows to be a government-sponsored contract killer. You can decide who the worse parent is.
McG and his writers (the film is co-written by Luc Besson, who is credited with the story) seem to have learned everything about parenting from watching crappy movies. Ethan and Zoey bond over an array of tactless clichés. He calms her down when she freaks out about a bad hairstyle (teenagers!), he meets her French boyfriend (and insists that American football is “real football”), he teaches her how to dance (for the fucking prom!), he buys her a bicycle and teaches her how to ride it (because he was never around in her childhood to do so), and they have the obligatory conversation about why he left (“Was it because of me?” she asks).
Oh, and he also saves her from gang rape – because there’s no other way to illustrate that he is, in fact, a good guy. Typical of the absurdity of the film, after he saves her, Ethan takes her to a bench in a public square, where she sleeps all night with her head in his lap – no explanation as to why he didn’t take her home, or to a hospital.
But 3 Days to Kill is a movie where nothing makes sense. By the time the African-French homeless family that is squatting in Ethan’s apartment gives birth to a new daughter in his presence, one can give up all hope of finding logic, artistry, or common decency in this picture. All you can do is suffer the torture in the hope that once the credits roll the healing can begin.