“3 Days to Kill” begins with a botched CIA operation that results in chaos and disaster. Sadly, this muddled mess parallels the film in its entirety, from the clichéd characters and their vacuous dialogue to the inconsistent tone and mismatched antics. Protagonists and antagonists alike alternate between dead seriousness and awkward humor in both conversation and action, creating a further rift in mood, which is most notable in the bizarre pairings of abduction and torture with parental advice and cooking recipes. Violence is also overused and clumsily coupled with all manner of situation, expressing adventure, suspense, pathos, comedy relief, and more, essentially numbing the effectiveness of it all. Even Amber Heard’s physical appeal is dulled by atrocious banter and banal character design.
After a failed mission to capture international terrorist “The Wolf” lands CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) in the hospital, he discovers he has a mere few months to live due to terminal brain cancer, which has spread to his lungs. Determined to reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), Ethan retires and returns home to Paris. But it’s not long before the CIA needs him back and top agent Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) offers him a deal he can’t refuse. In exchange for an experimental drug that may prolong his life, Renner must locate The Wolf and eliminate him. When Christine leaves for three days on a business trip, Ethan must juggle the responsibilities of looking after a teenage girl with his volatile mission of assassination.
So much extraneous content and subplots pepper the film that it’s regularly difficult to separate plot from pointless detail. Complications on digressions take place for the sake of fluffing up the production into a nearly two-hour event. Unlike 1978’s “Foul Play,” which satirically mocked the spy movie stereotypes, inherent weirdness of murder mysteries, and “wrong man” mix-ups, the humor in “3 Days to Kill” takes the form of unintentionally bizarre meetings, villains with monikers like “The Albino,” “The Wolf,” and the “Italian Accountant,” and blackmail through trading empirical life-saving drugs for murders. In the end, resolutions aren’t even given, refusing to deliver definitive statements on Vivi’s involvement, Ethan’s health, or his wife’s intentions.
As can be expected from a Luc Besson screenplay (with the additive of direction by McG), the film chronicles a smorgasbord of seemingly random interactions of a “cleaner’s” family members, acquaintances and their families, and even the families of enemies or targets, infused with crime drama and action. Car chases and deadly shootouts (with enormous amounts of henchman collateral damage) frequent scenes of a distanced father bonding with his displeased wife and reconnecting with his indifferent daughter, reinforcing the “Pulp Fiction” notion that even ruthless government hitmen lead normal lives during off hours. And, like Besson’s other recent works, the film is derivative, riddled with platitudes, and feels like a “Mission: Impossible” pitch (Costner’s character even shares the name Ethan). It’s certainly not enough to help viewers choose sides; strangely chummy relationships with the men Ethan tortures, a teenaged girl who shrugs off attempted rape at a party, and a cold-blooded CIA bellwether all pose unconvincing, confused emotional and moral divisions. Amber Heard is the most miscast role, presenting a woman with unexplained actions, no reactions, ludicrous overconfidence, constantly changing hairstyles and colors, and dominatrix-styled skintight costumes that couldn’t be further from the covert spy operations she’s supposed to be masterminding.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)