Is it possible to have the best of both worlds: a successful career and a loving family to go home to? What happens when you make the wrong choice when you have to choose between the two? Is it possible to correct that mistake when time becomes a factor? That's part of the premise behind the DVD release of "3 Days to Kill," which had one character attempting to do just that. Sadly, the movie's uneven tone and lack of finding a specific genre to choose from left many viewers a little disappointed in the end.
"3 Days to Kill" followed a CIA assassin named Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) who always knew how to get the job done. He was always able to kill his specific target without making too much of a mess for his colleagues to clean up. Unfortunately, his last assignment didn't go according to plan when the target, a terrorist known only as "The Wolf" (Richard Sammel), managed to get away amongst a massive amount of carnage. Ethan wasn't able to catch up to him because he was sidelined with a massive cold that made him pass out after shooting one of the Wolf's main henchmen before he could secure his hands on a dangerous bomb. Even though the mission was only partially done, Ethan's career and life were forever changed by being diagnosed with a terminal illness that only gave him months to live. He decided to spend that time trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld) who was growing into quite the rebellious teenager and often made her father the target of some cruel insults because she never understood why he left her for all those years. Zooey was never aware of the extent of her father's dangerous work or realized that he stayed away for her own protection. The only one that knew about Ethan's job and his illness was his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) who wanted to make sure that Ethan could reconciel with Zooey before it was truly too late for both of them. She decided the perfect opportunity to do this was go away on an important business trip and leave her husband in charge. She took the risk knowing that Ethan would try to make in-roads with their daughter, but she didn't know how hard it was going to be for them to truly trust each other. Ethan was willing to do whatever it took stay alive long enough to bond with his daughter, except there was no cure for his illness. Enter Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) an agent at the CIA with an experimental drug that could save his life if he could handle the side effects and do one more risky assignment. He had to kill The Wolf and then he was done with the agency. Ethan accepts the mission, but will he be able to truly carry it out or die trying?
In terms of questions, the movie posed a few that were answered relatively quickly and a little too neatly. The movie's main draw was the idea of seeing Costner trying to carve a new on-screen image for himself as the grizzled action hero that Liam Neeson became after "Taken." Sadly, Costner ended up choosing the wrong movie to do that with. He should've picked one that had a stronger screenplay that proved that it was a true action film rather than a family drama mixed with some action adventure moments. The movie had an action packed beginning that was filled with violence, a gun fight and a lot of explosions. It's just a shame that the story didn't truly balance those moments with family drama that surrounded Ethan's family and the family living in his home. The human elements plots were more of a distraction to the main story of Ethan carrying out his assignment. The presence of Ethan's family would've been better served if they were built into his mission somehow, such as either his wife or daughter being kidnapped by the man that he was supposed to assassinate. Now, that would have been surefire way for the character to complete his mission. It also didn't help that Heard's dubious Vivi seemed to have little purpose than to manipulate Costner into doing her dirty work and prance around in the most interesting of outfits and disguises. Even though Steinfeld and Costner did have a decent rapport, the father and daughter plot took away more from the story than added to it. If they did any other type of movie together, the Ethan/Zooey story would've been a much better fit. What was also disappointing was that the final battle between Ethan and The Wolf ended up leaving viewers feeling more cold than satisfied. Sure, some blood was spilled, but not in the way that many would expect. It also didn't help that the movie's final ending was a random moment and concluded on such a flat note that everyone was expecting something shocking when nothing came. If Costner does decide to take on another action movie, he should choose a little more wisely, or simply work harder to find his version of "Taken" before giving up on the idea entirely.
As for breakout performances, Costner and Steinfeld led the pack in different degrees as they were also the ones that seemed to be driving most of the story. Costner's Ethan was designed to the right mixture of grit and human vulnerability even though he didn't always properly express it, while excelling at most of the movie's intense fight scenes. He also managed to give Ethan the right amount of sarcasm as he attempted to carry out some very dangerous assignments while suffering from severe halluncinations. Costner's strongest scene came when he was forced to explain to Steinfeld's Zooey why he left his family without going into too many details for her own safety. The scene offered the characters a chance to spend time together as Steinfeld's character learned how to ride a bike for the first time because Ethan was never around to teach her. One honorable mention was another scene when Costner went all over Paris looking for Zooey after she sneaked into a nightclub, but he was suffering through one of the halluncinations when he found her being attacked by multiple boys. Even though he was in a weakened state, Ethan managed to fight all of them all and take Zooey to safety. Even though Zooey's story was mostly flawed and separate from the main plot, Steinfeld managed to make it seem very credible and relatable to viewers who dealt with complicated family issues of not the same exact nature. She embodied Zooey as an angry, but vulnerable teenager who wanted to believe that her father loved her when her gut made her doubt that feeling. Steinfeld had the makings of being a great actress who already earned a lot of acclaim in her previous roles. Let's hope that she continues to build on that momentum by choosing her future film projects very carefully and not falling down the same rabbit hole as other former teen film stars before her. Luckily, Steinfeld seemed very capable of avoiding those pratfalls and focusing on acting instead of questionable off-screen behavior. Only time will tell if that's truly the case.
Verdict: Costner proved to be promising action star, but he could've chosen a movie with a stronger story and a better grasp on what genre it wanted to before signing anything.
DVD Score: 2 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)