If there's one thing McG and Luc Besson will never be recognized for, it's subtlety. Hot babes, fast cars, shoot outs, and questionable attempts at humor are what they traffic in. It wasn't always that way for Besson, director of genre classics like The Professional and La Femme Nikita, but now he produces artificial popcorn flavoring like The Transporter and Taken. But there's something endearing about Besson's sloppy Euro-action movies, and for all its many....oh so many flaws...3 Days to Kill is sort of enjoyable for the performances within.
And by performances I mean a Kevin Costner who seems totally perplexed by the strange comedy-espionage world he's stumbled into, and Amber Heard vamping it up in a variety of skin tight outfits (and odd locales) that are worth the price of admission alone. It's not fair to say that Besson tosses Costner into the Taken blender because 3 Days to Kill is only partly an action movie; the good majority of it resembles a sitcom where the clueless dad tries to reconnect with his rebellious teen. It makes for a strange brew, and one that's too ridiculous to be boring.
Costner, with his unkempt beard and collection of scarfs plays Ethan, a CIA operative who has grown tired of the job. After a run-in with the ludicrously-named, but also sort of awesome villain known as The Albino goes belly-up when Ethan passes out, he's diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. With only months left to live, he decides to hang up his gun and reconnect with his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) and estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), who are now living in Paris. The wife never liked his job, and Zoey has no clue about it, but just as Ethan is starting to get comfortable he's roped back into business by an oversexed honeypot named Vivi (Heard). He refuses, even somehow shaking her flirtatious charms...
"You're not my type", he says.
"I'm everybody's type", she comes back.
She's not wrong, but it takes the offer of an experimental cure to get Ethan back for one last murder mission, taking out an arms dealer named The Wolf. The cure causes Ethan to black out at inconvenient moments, like every time he's about to nab the bad guy. But what makes him even more delirious is the presence of an African family of squatters who have taken over his home randomly. The youngest son is always trying to give him high-fives, which Ethan is WAY too cool for. In an effort to make good with Zoey he buys a purple bike nobody wants to ride, and then there's the issue of her dating and having hair troubles and the big dance is coming up and what is a trained killer to do!?!? Why not torture some sage parenting advice out of the guys he's been hired to beat up? An unfortunate Italian accountant is forced to give up his recipe for marinara or face further brutality; while another insider (Marc Androni) keeps getting phone calls from Ethan on how to raise a daughter. Speaking of phones, Zoey sets Icona Pop's "I Don't Care" as Ethan's ringtone and it goes off at the worst times imaginable. Stealth apparently isn't in his job description.
It's over-the-top and nonsensical but Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak know exactly what they're doing. Some of the jokes about "cowboy" Americans and France's silly governmental system are lifted from Besson's old playbook (they can be heard in The Family most recently), and McG directs with his usual emphasis on action rather than emotion. Costner fits comfortably as a bad ass despite his weathered, beaten body, which only makes his bewilderment during the sentimental moments all the more believable. The film does veer a little too heavily into schmaltz, especially when Ethan starts offering up dance lessons and teaching Zoey how to ride a bike. The mix of humor and violence isn't always on-point, and the tone is more than a little disorienting. Hardly one of Besson's best but far from his worst (ever seen Wasabi? Or From Paris with Love?), 3 Days to Kill is entertaining enough, ironically, for those with some time to kill.