Hollywood marketing strikes again with Kevin Costner’s latest “3 Days to Kill.” From the trailers you can see that Costner stars as a CIA agent who must balance his most recent mission and his relationship with his daughter. What you may have been led to believe was that “3 Days to Kill” was some kind of action/comedy. It isn’t. The action is fair and any attempt at humor produces a modest chuckle, at best. But at its heart it is a family drama, and if you level your expectations there, you will find it to be an okay movie, not good, but okay.
After years away from his family, Costner’s Ethan learns that he only has months to live. He returns to Paris where his wife and daughter live in hopes of reconnecting with them. However, he is given the chance to save his life with an experimental drug if he helps the CIA kill an international criminal. Ethan is not only going up against these dangerous men, but he must learn how to deal with a teenage daughter as well.
The film wants to draw people in with its action, but if that is what puts them in the seats they will find themselves rather bored by it. All the basic requirements are there: gun fights, hand to hand combat, even a car chase, but the sequences have such little energy whether it be because things aren’t a challenge for Costner’s character, or because they’re over pretty quickly.
Any attempt at comedy falls into the same category. The juxtaposition of trying to be a good father when you are in the middle of interrogating a potential lead is amusing, the first time, but when that’s the best running joke you have it’s not a great sign. Any other attempts fall kind of flat, mostly because they’re not given the time to develop and are just sprung on the audience in a desperate hope to illicit a new reaction.
Despite a lackluster showing in those two departments, the story is able to save itself. It does this by taking the time to show its heart. Action may be rushed and the comedy glazed over, but the relationship between Costner and Hailee Steinfeld, who plays his daughter, is what makes “3 Days to Kill” worth anything. No, what they do isn’t anything particularly new, but it is done in earnest, there’s an arch and a satisfying ending. We understand that Ethan made choices in the past regarding his family that created their distance, but we root for him because he is taking strides to change, make the right decisions to reconcile and find peace, not just because he’s the good guy with the gun.
There are plenty of roll your eye moments. Ethan’s sickness only seems to affect him when he is about to kill the bad guy. Said bad guys are practically non-consequential - but again, since that’s not the main part of the story it’s more forgivable. Oh, and any time Amber Heard is on screen.
It's hard to defend “3 Days to Kill” as a good movie, but there should be no qualms about adding it to a list of guilty pleasures. The intent to be more was there, and maybe it doesn’t pass with flying colors, but it at least gets the job done in a relatively pleasing fashion. Give me something with a heart and a few characters I can care about any day over flashy action covering a hollow shell.
(This review first appeared on lenoirauteur.com)