French action writer Luc Besson’s “3 Days to Kill,” newly released on DVD, feels like the poor work in progress first draft of his groundbreaking 2008 sensation “Taken.” The co-written screenplay from a story he penned gives us a tired and scruffy Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner, a tired and scruffy CIA agent estranged from his wife (Connie Nielsen) and teenaged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). If that’s not familiar enough, Ethan shows up for his daughter’s birthday with an inappropriate gift that he keeps forcing on her throughout the movie. Oh, yeah, it also takes place in Paris.
The twist is that this spy who came in from what he thought was a cold finds out that he has cancer. His diagnosis gives him five months to live at best. Right on cue enters Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), a slick fellow CIA agent who dresses as cool as her name, drives fast and gets others to do her dirty work. She just happens to have a miracle drug that will buy Ethan extended life expectancy. In exchange for the drug, he simply has to take out a mysterious dirty bomb vendor known as The Wolf (Richard Sammel).
Of course there are a lot of other bad guys to be knocked off before he gets to The Wolf. This leads to plenty of mostly standard stuff gunplay, breaking glass and fisticuffs with some lighthearted abductions and tortures thrown in to round it out. And like a reverse page out of the Jason Statham schlock fest “Crank,” the drug makes Ethan hallucinate if his heart rate increases.
Uncertainty in tone further plagues the movie with clumsy attempts at comedy and social commentary that have no place here. Ethan takes phone calls from his daughter and her school principal while torturing perps and even gets a recipe from one of them. He argues with Vivi about another’s style of facial hair during a hit. Still more inconceivable, he also has squatters in his apartment and the French police tell him there is nothing he can do about them.
Costner, with a new gravelly voice, walks through this pastiche of action and domestic scenes until a ridiculously coincidental encounter brings his final ho-hum showdown with The Wolf. There is one well-executed car chase and he makes clever use of a doorstop in another scene, but they are nowhere near enough to recommend finding two hours to kill with this one.