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Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 12:01 am

Costner saves 3 Days to Kill

Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill.


McG’s 3 Days to Kill is the sort of film that’s hard to defend. Yet, I couldn’t help but be entertained by its odd pastiche of elements and dark sense of humor, both of which helped add a sly twist on what otherwise would have been a pedestrian effort. Featuring a nicely understated turn from Kevin Costner, who’s stepping in here for Liam Neeson as it’s obvious Neeson’s docket was too full to squeeze in another slam-bang feature since he’s re-imagined himself a middle-aged man of action, the film is buoyed by an interesting premise that gets a great deal of mileage out of repeatedly putting its main character in situations where he’s forced to switch roles at the drop of a hat, going from ruthless spy to concerned father at the most inopportune times.

Costner is Ethan Renner, a veteran CIA agent who’s retired after finding out he has brain cancer and will likely be dead in less than six months. He decides to use what time he has left to attempt to reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and their daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). That he’s met with less than open arms doesn’t surprise him but Renner perseveres and after some initial resistance, is on his way to rebuilding the bridges that his constant absenteeism laid to waste. However, this family reunion hits a snag when our hero is contacted by Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), a CIA executive who wants him to come out of retirement to track down two terrorists who got away when his final mission went off the rails. Of course, Renner declines the offer, until he’s informed there’s an experimental drug that could put his cancer in remission that will be at his disposal if he agrees to play ball. You can see where this is headed.

The film is nothing more than a collection of gimmicks that for one baffling reason or another work. The drug Renner is given is effective but the side effects are a killer. Unless he keeps his blood pressure down he suffers from hallucinations and debilitating headaches, which is a bit difficult when you’re in hot pursuit of two killers through the streets of Paris. Of course, once Renner is back in his family’s good graces, Christine leaves town on business for three days, leaving him to hold down the fort, catering to Zoey’s teen angst, all the while trying to track down his targets without her knowing about it. Then there’s the matter of the African family that’s squatting in Renner’s apartment that he can’t evict until winter has passed as France has strict laws protecting them. The culture clash that results is played for effective laughs, yet in the end it helps the agent get his priorities straight. And let’s not forget Vivi, a role that allows Heard to shamelessly vamp it up. She shows up in a different fetish outfit each time she makes contact with her agent, always trying to seduce Renner while chastising him for not quite living up to her expectations. Her presence proves our government is recruiting a different type of agent these days and her wardrobe is a worthy use of our tax dollars.

None of this is to be taken seriously and the only reason the film works is because Costner effectively plays the straight man throughout. He pulls off an effective Buster Keaton here, stoic, calm, yet effective as personal and professional chaos rains down upon him at every turn. The actor’s stillness holds him in good stead here and he’s equally good when Renner’s façade breaks and he shares a genuine moment of concern or laugh with his wife and daughter. He also shows a subtle comic flair when his systematic torture of reluctant informants is repeatedly interrupted by phone calls from Zoey and he’s forced to solicit advice from his victims as to what to do. Costner knows he’s the one consistent human element in a movie filled with cartoonish characters and the actor is obviously enjoying himself in a way we’ve rarely seen him do on screen.

In the end, Costner does what every leading man or woman is required to do and that’s to connect with the audience. After all, who in this modern day and age hasn’t suffered from trying to juggle their career with their familial responsibilities? The actor’s performance and some well choreographed action sequences from McG, including an imaginative car chase through the streets of Paris, make 3 Days to Kill an entertaining diversion that requires a greater suspension of disbelief than most films, but at least gets points for trying to put a new spin on an old formula.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.


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