When you hear that the villains are a couple of terrorists called The Wolf and The Albino, you should know right away not to take “3 Days to Kill” too seriously — and that helps.
Proceed from that position and you can take pretty much anything in stride. Even the idea of a terminally ill CIA super-agent trying to reconnect with his daughter while secretly wiping out a small army of bad guys. The problem with “3 Days” isn’t merely that it’s unbelievable, it’s that it takes the unbelievable to weirdly disturbing and sentimental extremes.
If all you’re after is spectacular action-comedy craziness, though, with occasional pauses for heart-warming emotion, this should do the trick.
Produced and co-written by the wildly prolific Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” the “Transporter” and “Taken” series), “3 Days” is the story of Ethan Renner, a veteran CIA agent who’s devoted his life to the agency. After an introductory massive gunfight with the Albino (Tomas Lemarquis) and his men, Ethan (Kevin Costner) learns he has brain cancer and just a few months to live. So he resigns and travels to Paris to try to patch things up with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and teenager daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld of “True Grit”).
And that’s working out reasonably well until a freelance assassin named Vivi (Amber Heard in cold-blooded sexy mode), who has a contract from the CIA to take out the Wolf, offers Ethan a deal. If he’ll agree to kill the Wolf and the Albino for her, she’ll provide him with an experimental medicine that could save his life. Meaning Ethan, who has promised Christine he’s out of the game for good, has to be very discreet the small-scale war he’s engaged in, while simultaneously looking after resentful, rebellious 16-year-old Zoey during mom’s three-day absence. In other words, doing his best to balance work and family.
On the plus side, the action scenes in “3 Days,” expertly staged by director McG (who got his start with “Charlies Angels” before moving on to produce “The. O.C.,” “Chuck” and “Nikita” on TV) get the adrenaline flowing nicely. Also Costner (who after a long hiatus is back to leading-man status with this and the upcoming “Draft Day”) is quite good at the weary, laconic, macho thing. And pretty funny about the way everything, from the room full of cute immigrant squatters in his apartment to Zoey’s young pup of a boyfriend, is getting on his last nerve.
Up to a point, the film’s also not bad in the way it handles Ethan’s efforts to catch up on daddy-daughter things with Zoey, from teaching her to ride a bicycle to teaching her to dance to violently interfering during an attempt to gang-rape her at a disco. (So not a good idea, you nameless, soon-to-be-hospitalized scumbags.)
That last situation might seem to be crossing a line of some sort (especially when Costner carries her away in a scene straight out of the poster from “The Bodyguard”), but it’s hardly the first in “3 Days.” Going for laughs by having Costner interrogate a thug by applying jumper cables to his ears is a bit queasy-making, for example. Torture is nothing new in movies, of course, but it’s a little unusual to treat it as a source of hilarity, as it is on several occasions here.
That’s not nearly as uncomfortable, though, as the decision to have Ethan teach his teenage daughter to slow-dance by dimming the lights and putting on Bread’s “Make it with You.”
No two ways about it — that’s a major “eww.”