Three Days to Kill (2014) – A Review

Three Days To Kill Kevin Costner 2014
Kevin Costner in Three Days to Kill

Kevin Costner is Ethan Renner, a worn-out, lethal international spy who is diagnosed with a rare brain cancer that will kill him in three months.

Realizing the mistakes he made choosing his killing career over his family, he travels to Paris to reconcile with his estranged daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld) and is given three days to spend with her while his ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) leaves on a business trip.

However, Ethan gets another offer by the mysterious Vivi (Amber Heard). She’ll give him this experimental drug that could cure him. The catch is he has to be willing to come back to the spy game and track down and kill the Wolf (Richard Sammel).

So he has three days to kill between playing the good father and killing a lot of bad guys. And the only reason you should watch this is if you’re in desperate need of two hours to kill. And even then just go read a book or something.

Costner seemed like he was getting a little bump in resurgence recently. I’ve been seeing him much more frequently both in supporting and lead roles.

Yet, none have really been a dazzling return to form for him. Other than the Hatfields & McCoys mini-series, I haven’t much liked any of his recent films that I’ve seen. And I am gladly throwing Three Days to Kill onto the pile.

The only upside to this movie is that it still appears that Costner can shift between action moves and quieter emotional moments. I think he could convincingly do a Taken-type of thing, which this is clearly influenced by (that’s not too surprising since it’s a story and screenplay by Luc Besson).

He still has a charisma onscreen and it almost manages to eek through in small moments here. Had this been better made he might have had a nice little sleeper of a hit. But it’s very badly made, brings Costner down and you’re left wondering why would he agree to be in such a b-level movie. This did him no favors.

Things begin to unravel pretty fast in an incoherent story that shuffles between Costner trying to track down the Wolf, making up lost time with his ex-wife and daughter, trading tough talk with leather-clad Heard, riding a purple bicycle, getting friendlier and more welcoming to a family of squatters nestled in his apartment, having awkward conversations with his daughter’s boyfriend, getting into some action scenes and experiencing psychedelic blackouts.

Amber Heard Three Days to Kill sexy hot
Heard dressed as a not-so-covert spy

It goes all over the place. The tone shifts so dramatically from scene to scene that it never settles into any kind of rhythm. There are violent bursts of action, awkward comedy and heart strings being tugged with absolutely no finesse. It’s a really strange jarring film.

It’s a seemingly simple enough premise too, but the story gets so convoluted at points I wasn’t sure why Costner was interrogating this guy or what connection he has to the Wolf.

His relationship with his daughter crossing into his assassin assignment feels so forced at times. Oh, she calls just when he’s about to kill someone. That’s mighty awkward. The guy he’s interrogating happens to know a recipe for spaghetti sauce which his daughter needs. That’s funny, right? Really stupid scenes.

The whole squatter thing really confused me as to why that subplot was even there! I guess it was meant to add light comedy during interrogation scenes that take place in the apartment bathroom. Oh my how awkward, Ethan has to torture a guy while a little boy squatter sits outside the door. Very, very strange.

The real kicker is the scene when the squatter family declares they will name their new baby after Ethan. I just couldn’t figure out if the movie was sincere with this or trying and failing to be funny.

Heard is laughable and boring as the secretive, cool as ice spy. The happy little family montage of Costner finally connecting with his wife and daughter was embarrassingly convenient.

Granted I started to zone out at points, but I’m still not sure how his family and the Wolf end up at a big party together at the end. I didn’t care at that point anyway, I was just happy this was nearing its end.

This could have been an entertaining less heavy Taken knock-off. As I said I like Costner and doing a fun actioner might have been a smart move for him. And there is some effective action moments that unfold in Paris with a car chase and some fights, but the movie as a whole desperately needed more focus.

The story throws too many balls in the air  and director McG can’t keep them all up or balance them in any way. They all come bouncing to the ground very quickly. This shouldn’t be too surprising given McG’s track record.

At two solid hours the movie gets more confused the longer it goes and I felt every minute of it. It became a real chore to get to the end.

This is not one of Costner’s best. It’s on the much lower end of his recent film excursions – in fact out his entire career! Be wise and skip it, which is what Costner should have done.


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3 Responses

  1. Nick H says:

    Why does McG keep getting feature film directing jobs? He's clearly not up to the task.

  2. spaceodds says:

    Saw this at a friend's house. Not even enjoyable as a Friday night dinner movie. Costner goes through the motions, whilst Steinfeld clearly took the job so that she can hang out in Paris. Amber Heard has never been more annoying as a CIA agent, who clearly only took the job to fulfill her dominatrix desires. The film is clearly set up to start up another potential franchise. Besson and his company, Eurocourp, struck the brass ring in 2002 by making Jason Statham a bona fide action star, and they struck gold in 2008 when Liam Neeson signed on to do a slick, but cheerful Taken (making Neeson the first bona fide 55+ action star) With Costner it didn't work out, and even though its great to see another blast from the past mounting the saddle one more time, please, please make him saddle up in a more fun movie.

  3. Capt. Nemo says:

    Poor Kevin Costner.

    I remember we were talking about Sigorney Weaver during the Copycat review. How she was enjoying a career bump at the time where she was back on A-list status. I find that significant because you are seeing the same thing happen to Costner. He's been in a slew of big budget films when the normal math says he's long past his expiration date and shouldn't be used. Now I'm happy for anyone who can get back on top no matter what. But some success will be necessary for him to stay there.

    Weaver was hit and miss. But at least, she had the hits. I can't think of any movie that has put Costner back on the "bankable" side of the ledger. My advise: Find some hit vehicle quick or enjoy your A-List status while it lasts.

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