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'3 Days to Kill' is a flawed yet entertaining mashup

Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld in '3 Days to Kill'
Kevin Costner and Hailee Steinfeld in '3 Days to Kill'
© Relativity Media

3 Days to Kill


"3 Days to Kill" is an odd movie. On the surface, it could seem like a standard action movie. Basically, a CIA agent retires, but then they pull him back for one last job. Yeah, pretty standard action plot, right? Well, this movie only starts there. You see, the reason CIA agent Ethan Renner retired is because he is dying. He has been told that he has three months to live. I guess that could have been the title of the movie, but "3 Days to Kill" sounds more like an action movie and less like the movie really is. So what is "3 Days to Kill" if not standard action fare?

"3 Days to Kill" is a drama about a dying man re-connecting with the family he has separated himself from for years. He has a wife and a daughter who he really has not been there for in a long time. It's a touching story of how this man learns the value of family and the things that really matter in life.

No, wait. "3 Days to Kill" is a comedy. It is a funny movie about a guy who keeps getting in way over his head. It is a movie about a man who comically has to juggle many different things at once. Will he be able to stay afloat or will everything fall apart in a grand comedic fashion?

Actually, "3 Days to Kill" is all these things in one. It is an action comedy family drama. Sometimes, a blending of genres can be really good. A good example of an action movie that blends with a usually very different genre is "Grosse Pointe Blank", which is a romantic comedy that happens to be about a hitman. In that film, there are scenes that are very typical of a romantic comedy, but there are also scenes of brutal violence that you would typically only find in an action movie. Somehow, in that movie, it all fits together rather nicely. In "3 Days to Kill", things don't go as smoothly.

"3 Days to Kill" doesn't quite find the right balance between the comedy, the family drama, and the action. The action, at times, feels tacked on. There is a chase sequence in this movie that I am convinced was only put into this movie because action movies usually have a car chase at some point. It didn't really serve much purpose other than to add another check-mark to the checklist of scenes you are supposed to have in an action movie. The action in the movie also varies. Sometimes, it is actually pretty cool and there are some memorable action movie moments. Other times, the action is a little more bland like in the car chase. The comedy mixes pretty well with the action, but the family drama doesn't always mix as well with everything else.

I really believe that if "3 Days to Kill" had been made by a more artistic director that the movie could have been excellent. There is a certain hint of something strange throughout the movie that it never fully capitalizes on. For example, in the beginning of the movie we are introduced to Amber Heard's character of Vivi. She is introduced wearing casual clothes and no makeup. She speaks in a tone that is completely ordinary. Then, every single other time we see her in the movie she is wearing lots of makeup, is all dressed up, and speaks always in a cheesy, seductive, voice. Which one is the real Vivi? We don't really know. Why did she have the sudden change? Also, is she really working for the CIA because her actions seem different from what they would allow. It's all rather mysterious and if the movie had played with it more then it could have been really fascinating, but the movie does nothing with it.

There's also the fact that Ethan Renner keeps losing his vision and going unconscious unless he takes an experimental drug that Vivi gives him in exchange for him doing one last job. The obvious analogy here is that the job itself is a drug that he has not been able to kick. It is an addiction that has ruined his life. It has taken him away from his family which is what really matters in his life. It also is a constant threat to his health. The movie, unfortunately, never really does anything with that analogy itself. It is more something that the viewer has to put together rather than something that was clearly intended to be addressed in the movie.

Really, I would have liked "3 Days to Kill" better if it was more like a psychological thriller. Maybe throw in some paranoia about just who he is working for and have him more paranoid about potential threats to his family. I mean, he is given this experimental drug out of nowhere that is supposedly going to extend his life. He is constantly injecting this drug into him and there doesn't seem to be much hesitance on his part to do it. There are some small moments where he questions the drug, but I feel there should have been a more heightened sense of paranoia about the drug before and after he takes it.

What works in "3 Days to Kill", surprisingly, is the acting. I'm not usually a big fan of Kevin Costner, but it is his performance that really holds the movie together. He balances the drama, comedy, and action very well. He sells each family moment as well as each action scene. Hailee Steinfeld also does a good job as his daughter, Zoey. Amber Heard sometimes feels out of place and cheesy as Vivi, but I think that is more due to the script than her performance.

The thing is that even though I wish "3 Days to Kill" would have pushed things a little further and been a little more artistic, it is still a good movie. The drama works, the comedy is funny, and the action is cool. It doesn't always blend together perfectly, but somehow, it adds up to a worthwhile film that is certainly different from the typical conventions of each genre it utilizes. "3 Days to Kill" may not be the great film it could have been, but it does try something different and it does entertain.