3 Days to Kill

Who doesn’t love Paris? So said Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) as she worked out the details of what she wanted from Ethan Renner (a starring role for Kevin Costner), a veteran CIA operative in the new film 3 Days to Kill.

Nice thought but the film actually opens in the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, before switching to a hotel in Belgrade.

Agent Vivian Delay has been ordered to capture the international arms dealer code-named Wolf who will be selling a suitcase dirty bomb to the Syrians. Delay and company will be led (hopefully to the Wolf) by capturing his associate called The Albino.

There’s a nasty shootout and an even nastier decapitation, but Wolf and The Albino do get away. Ethan Renner wounded The Albino, but it is painfully obvious that he’s not long for the world, nor has he much value when forced to chase some one on foot.

Vivi, now sporting a blond wig and sexy clothes, makes contact with Renner at a Paris street market. Since Renner has been working around the world, he has never met Delay. So he blows off her pick up line – I’m not interested – but she gets his attention because she has his watch, an engraved watch, a gift from his wife, that Renner lost in the Belgrade activity.

Now that got his attention, and mine too, because in Langley, Vivi/Vivian was a mousey, plain Jane. What she wants from Renner is a last kill. But Renner, who was not only tired of his job (CIA field agents do burn out) but he also been diagnosed with an inoperable and lethal brain cancer which has spread to his lungs.

His doctor says: Three months, maybe five.
Renner: So, no Christmas for me this year?
Doctor: I’m afraid not.

Vivi offered an experimental drug delivered via a nasty looking syringe, and a large amount of dollars. So Renner agrees, I mean what choice does he have. But it does make him feel better. The downside is that it also brings a loss of equilibrium and some hallucinogenic effects.

But Renner is intrepid, and so he does go after The Accountant, The Albino, and the Wolf. Now if you’ve seen the trailer, you might think this is a testosterone-fueled action film with shootouts, car chases, and explosions. You might be extra-motivated to see it once you learn that this is a Luc Besson screenplay.

But the pedigree and the trailer, while emphasizing the action, don’t give you an accurate portrayal of the story. When Renner returns to his Paris apartment, he finds a family of African squatters living in his place. And according to the local law, squatters cannot be forced out during winter. So he must make do.

Besides that, he’s got family issues of his own because he has been out in the field so long, he hasn’t seen his wife or daughter in five years. His wife played by Connie Nielsen – she played Meredith Kane in the Starz Network Boss series which was covered at length on this site, knows that he is in the CIA, but his daughter has no clue.

So Renner must deal with winning back his wife, the squatters, getting to know his daughter and dealing with her. She’s called Zoey, and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) has the role. Naturally, she resents her father, doesn’t know him except for childhood memories. Beyond that she’s a rebellious teenager deeply involved with the dangerous Paris night life scene.

Unfortunately, the quadruple plot lines, always seem to intersect in the wrong ways, and at the wrong times. While the action is quite good, it clearly seems that we have to switch gears far too often, and as such – even though you bought a ticket for a Costner/CIA/Paris action film you got a family story that’s not all that interesting. Actually you got two of those because the African squatters are a family too.

So the film wanders from plot thread to plot thread. Which weakens all of them.

Costner is good, as are Nielsen and Steinfield. But Vivi is more of a caricature of a femme fatale, and the villains are all straight out of the generic Eastern European villains catalogue.

Get on the bike. I don't know how. Every kid knows how to ride a bike. Well I don't - I didn't have a father to teach me.

Get on the bike.
I don’t know how.
Every kid knows how to ride a bike. Well I don’t – I didn’t have a father to teach me.

Beyond that, Director McG doesn’t know a thing about Parisian geography. No one would carry a bicycle up the hill to the Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris, to give a bike riding lesson. Yet Costner/Renner does exactly that. It’s one thing to live in Montmartre, but isn’t easier to walk down to level ground than walk up?

And that’s not even the most egregious error. There’s a car chase and a car is knocked off a bridge and lands next to the Seine River. From there, the villain is chased to the Segur Metro stop. Now I know for a fact that there are bridges with intersections crossing the Seine at Pont de Grenelle and Pont d’lena both of which are west of the Segur Metro. There’s the Pont de l’Alma which is north of the Segur Metro station.

Now from any of those bridges to the Segur Metro are hefty walks, especially for any one who had just been in a serious car wreck. And from each bridge, apparently these folks would have to (in real life) ridiculously walked or limped past two or three Metro stations that they would have passed on the way to the Metro at Segur.

That’s just sloppy. Besides that – why not just take a taxi.

I liked the action a lot but not the side stories. Even though Nielsen and Steinfeld did fine work in their narrowly defined roles, they just didn’t fit with the story offered in the trailer. Beyond that neither the daughter nor the wife were ever in real peril, aside from Zoey being at the mercy of three guys (sexual predators) in the bathroom of a club. Which Costner’s Renner handled both easily and of course, brutally.

Your trusty silencer. Never leave home without it.

Your trusty silencer.
Never leave home without it.

This film is a definite rental. or wait for the Red Box rather than plunging for the theatrical release. Two point seven five out of five is as high as I can go for a rating, and that’s only because I like Costner, and Paris, but in all honesty, even that rating is a stretch.

One thought on “3 Days to Kill

  1. Costner makes this work and has this go a long, long way, even if it is just his presence, and his presence alone. That’s basically it. Good review Mike.

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