The all-of-the-sudden ubiquitous Kevin Costner is making a name for himself on the big screen as of late. Additionally, Costner now seems at ease in popping up in generic spy thrillers. First, he took a supporting role in the recent Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. This time around Costner gets the lead as an aging gun-toting CIA operative in the dismissive espionage suspense piece 3 Days to Kill. Conveniently, Costner follows his fellow action-oriented oldsters (say for instance Liam Neeson from the Taken movie series) by applying the “kicking butt and taking names” method within the confines of another arbitrary governmental shoot ’em up actioner.
3 Days to Kill strives to approach its recycled spy spectacle from a manipulative domestic route involving familial affairs of the heart (hmmm…just like Neeson’s Daddy Dearest in the aforementioned Taken sequels) where the mature agent battles the priority of both his professional and private livelihood. Oh yeah…let us not forget to add the elements of a veteran CIA op undergoing a medical crisis at the crossroads of his career to stroke the waves of pathos. Plus, our daring yet ruffled hero needs more than just redemption from his neglected family and his sense of alarming mortality-he must go out with a bang and capture an elusive menace to highlight what has been a storied thrill-ride as a dedicated G-man. Still, do not feel too deprived folks because Costner and company get to blow stuff apart and aim weapons so the spy-or-die angle is at play. It would not be too presumptuous to rename this strained and labored spy dud from 3 Days to Kill to 3 Minutes to Overkill.
CIA mainstay Ethan Renner (Costner) is willing to call it quits and put behind him the top-notch service he faithfully provided for his country. Naturally the U.S. government does not want to see one of their gifted agents walk into the sunset when he can still be valuable to them on key international assignments. Renner’s only mission at this point in time is to try and reconnect with the family that he had abandoned years ago…a decision he now regrets. Specifically, Renner wants to mend the fences with his teen daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit”) and estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen). Right now Renner wants to answer the call of duty for his neglected loved ones and put his national spy game obligations on hold. The question remains: can Renner stay away from the intrigue and excitement as America’s reliable trigger man?
Another important factor that may have convinced the loyal CIA figurehead to finally step down and embrace his suffering family is that Renner is struggling with a neurological disease that can kill him so time certainly is of the essence to catch up on lost time with Zoey and Christine. However, the persistence of Vivi (Amber Heard) and his governmental brass want to snag the departing Renner for one last hurrah before he leaves the business (and perhaps his jeopardized life) for good. Renner’s colleagues believe that he is the ideal man to track down the notorious terrorists known as “The Wolf” and “The Albino” in France and trusts the experience of this cagey pro. So Renner is asked to become a government hitman by the sultry Vivi at a critical time when he is breaking new ground with the family he avoided previously while literally having one foot in the grave. Can Renner risk destroying his relatives yet again in the name of another dangerous yet intoxicating patriotic adventure? Take a wild guess as to what Renner is willing to do in the event of choosing which route to travel concerning his so-called dilemma regarding family obligations versus federalized unfinished business?
Actually, had 3 Days to Kill settled on having the sickly U.S. governmental gunman Renner abandon his high-wire act and settle down with the attention-starved kin folks this would be an entirely different kind of movie. With director McG at the helm along with Luc Besson’s giddy-minded script there was no way that Costner was not going to demonstrate the cliched showcasing of his middle-aged swagger, his hopping from various scenic European locales and his ready-made gunplay and dodging gaudy explosions that go BOOM on a colorful whim. Kill feels prolonged and cluttered and never really has time to breath and spread out the movie’s juggling ingredients of awkward comedy, run-of-the-mill suspense and pasted poignancy. Why even tease the audience with the burdensome choices of Costner’s Ethan Renner’s health hazard and a forced session of father-daughter forgiveness when all this flick really wanted to do was concentrate on being another jittery spy vehicle with an older Costner channeling a free-wheeling vintage 80′s Bruce Willis and his action-packed impishness from yesteryear? Costner’s distinction as a deadbeat daddy and disillusioned government enforcer with an inevitable deathbed visitation hanging over his shoulders is not enough to overcome this espionage egg of a thriller.
As a flat and fledgling spy vehicle, 3 Days to Kill could not die soon enough.
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen
CRITIC’S RATING: ** stars (out of 4 stars)