When sitting down to a new McG film, it’s best to remember the good times. “Terminator: Salvation” was a surprisingly strong entry in the futuristic franchise, driven by some great action sequences and powerhouse acting by Christian Bale. But then McG dropped “This Means War”, following in the tradition of action comedy that launched his feature film career(think the “Charlie’s Angels” movies).
Sadly, “3 Days to Kill” falls in line with the majority of McG’s action films. The characters play in a world where nothing is at stake, so the supposed ‘threat’ isn’t really all that threatening. By the time the credits start rolling, the viewer will have to seriously try and recall what the bad guy was trying to accomplish. The only thing that will stick is the bad guy’s nickname, which seems to utilized as a shortcut in the screenplay more than anything else.
In the film’s opening scene, a CIA agent(Amber Heard) is given the task to take out a target known as The Wolf. Surprisingly, Heard is dressed rather conservatively(she’s actually wearing a bra), but that doesn’t last long. After the initial operation ends badly, she shows up looking for Ethan(Kevin Costner), but now she’s sporting a bleach-blonde wig and is dressed like a high-class dominatrix. Her role quickly deviates into brief scenes where she’s dressed in latex and hanging out in strip clubs. She wants Ethan to do all the dirty work, yet she’s always following him around.
Which begs the question: why doesn’t Vivi(Heard) just take The Wolf out herself? Why does she watch the whole operation go to shambles from afar through a pair of binoculars in the opening sequence? Why doesn’t she grab The Albino while he limps aways slowly with a bullet in his leg? Certainly he would be able to provide some intel on The Wolf. One would think the Central Intelligence Agency would at least be sophisticated enough to drum up a police sketch artist. Heard’s role in the film is far from necessary, and as she is reduced to dressing like a high-class call girl, it is borderline offensive. Sadly, Amber Heard appears to have become typecast in the majority of her roles.
Action movies are often stupid fun, but “3 Days to Kill” is really just stupid. When Ethan is first introduced in the film, he walks into a hotel lobby where undercover agents are in position, trying to blend in. Interestingly, The Wolf is sitting at the hotel bar. When his associate The Albino walks through and the two exchange a look, miraculously none of the agents present in the same lobby seem to catch on. When the operation goes to shambles, fortunately Ethan is saved by a block of pay phones. They must have been the kind with bulletproof glass, and all of the bullets must have been above waist level. The fact that Ethan isn’t hit can be forgiven, but the poorly-orchestrated scene certainly can’t be.
Ethan’s relationship with his daughter doesn’t reach far beyond the annual phone call on her birthday, so of course, just like he has “3 Days to Kill”(which, if anyone’s counting, seems like 4 days as time progresses) he also has three days to repair his relationship with his daughter. Scenes of Ethan teaching his daughter(Hailee Steinfeld) how to dance and ride a bike show that any tattered relationship can quickly be repaired by spending a single afternoon with someone(and that learning a bike obviously(obviously!) should only take one afternoon).
At the point when Ethan is beating up teenagers at an underground rave party(no matter how justified), the viewer will be asking themselves, ‘are we supposed to think Ethan is a badass because he’s beating up on high schoolers and college-age kids’? Certainly it’s best not to overthink an action film, but “3 Days to Kill” really requires the brain to be shut off entirely(and even then, it barely rises above offering mild amusement). And that is just too high of a price to pay.