City of Lights (and Glocks): “3 Days to Kill”

March 18, 2014


This is a toughie. No, not because I’m conflicted about my feelings toward 3 Days to Kill—I pretty much hated it, and at one point was so bored I tried to file my income taxes on my iPhone during the middle third of the movie (word to wise: don’t ever try this…you fat-finger one key and the next thing you know the IRS wants actual proof of the elephant preserve you’re claiming as  a write-off). No, 3 Days to Kill is a toughie, because I can’t figure out what the hell anyone was doing with this movie? Like, what kind of movie were they making? What kind did they think they were making? Why did they make this? And why, when they saw the final result did they not just destroy it with fire and say that the final cut was destroyed by rampaging elephants who escaped from a preserve? That last one would actually be very helpful for me, if anyone wants to, you know, sign an affidavit to that effect. Anyway, let’s talk about this movie.

This is the latest installment in the Luc Besson catalog of movies in which middle-aged actors who’ve largely stopped making Oscar-bait play Americans who travel to European countries (usually France) and shoot foreigners for the CIA. In this case, Kevin Costner joins the likes of Liam Neeson and John Travolta in slumming unashamedly in a B-action movie.

"I was in Field of Dreams...just keep thinking about Field of Dreams..."

“I was in Field of Dreams…just keep thinking about Field of Dreams…”

In this movie he plays Ethan Renner—a CIA lifer introduced slaughtering a roomful of people at a hotel in Yugoslavia in an abortive attempt to bag an international arms trafficker known only as The Wolf. Well, everything goes Pete Tong, and Ethan very nearly takes down Wolfie’s right-hand man, The Albino (lock these names in your memory palace—they’re the only character traits they have). Unfortunately, what seems like a bad cold incapacitates Ethan, and the baddies get away.

Ethan discovers that his cold is actually an aggressive form of cancer, which has left him with about five months left to live. His death-sentence in hand, Ethan heads back to Paris to try and reconcile with his ex-wife (Connie Nielson) and estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). Problem is, they’re not much in the mood.

Salvation comes in the form Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), a CIA bigwig, and, by the looks of it, aspiring dominatrix who offers Ethan a cure to his cancer if he bags the Wolf for her. Well, what would you do? I mean aside from the things that involve Amber and a riding crop?

She's in her "goth assassin" phase.

She’s in her “goth assassin” phase.

Now, this seems fairly straightforward and yet Besson and director McG manage to cram so much pointless crap into this movie that this slight premise is stretched out over two painful hours. See, we also have:

* A girl’s bike Ethan keeps riding as a running joke. Eventually, he teaches his daughter how to ride it. Instead of killing anyone.

* Constant derision over the fact Ethan doesn’t wear a suit. Eventually he does, and everyone is like, “Wow, Kevin Costner is actually hot!” Because they weren’t alive in 1987.

Kevin cleans up pretty nicely...who'd'a thunk it?

Kevin cleans up pretty nicely…who’d’a thunk it? (Aside from anyone who’s seen “No Way Out”

* Ethan gets parenting tips from a shady banker…when he’s not torturing the guy with jumper cables. Luc Besson’s moral center is a nebulous place.

* So, so many scenes of the wife and daughter griping about how Ethan was never there for them. Man, it’s like they think terrorists are just gonna torture and kill themselves. Chicks, amirite?

* Ethan terrorizes his daughter’s new boyfriend. Because, why not? It’s not like he has an international criminal to kill in order to have his cancer cured or anything.

* A family of refugees from Mali have squatted in Ethan’s apartment, and he can’t evict them, I have know idea what that’s about, either.

* Oh, and Ethan’s meds give him hallucinations (which just look like extreme dizziness). The only way to combat the side effects is with vodka, because apparently this drug was synthesized by Boris Yeltsin.

Any of this seem remotely interesting to you? Yeah, it’s not. Heard manages to liven up her scenes because 1) she’s really, really hot, and 2) she seems utterly incapable of making any sense of her character. Costner, OTOH, plays his part mostly in a fog of befuddlement. It’s hard to blame him.

"For the last time, no! I haven't seen Waterworld!"

“For the last time, no I haven’t seen Waterworld!”

The pairing of Besson and Hollywood hack McG (he of the Charlie’s Angels movies and the execrable Terminator: Salvation) is a little like Godzilla and Mothra teaming up to whale on your city. Besson (who also wrote the story) brings his usual disinterest in things like character, motivation, or substance to this endeavor, and McG offers up his usual inability to apply logic to any given scene he’s directing.

Which raises the questions:

–What did Costner need to buy so badly he agreed to make this movie?

–Did McG put the Eiffel Tower in damn near every shot because he’s never heard of it and thought it was really cool?

–Do high-ranking CIA officials often choreograph sex shows in their spare time? If so, this actually explains a lot.

This is what they were doing instead of hunting Osama bin Laden?!?

This is what they were doing instead of hunting Osama bin Laden?!?

–What’s with using the numeral 3 in the title instead of spelling it out? Too many letters? 

–Why does everyone in Paris speak English?

At the end of the day, though, my biggest question regarding this film is why it didn’t just go direct to streaming video.


  1. Hilarious review.

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