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Entries in 3 Days to Kill [2014] (1)

Sunday
Feb232014

3 Days to Kill (2014)

The Biggest Louvre

It's still winter, so we're still getting movies like 3 Days to Kill. Kevin Costner plays himself in this documentary about a former Hollywood heavyweight using his waning clout to finagle an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris. Unfortunately, the actor ate a rancid plate of mussels just before principal photography, and spent the rest of the shoot glowering, green, and confused as to why he wasn't home in bed (as an audience member, I could relate).

At the zero-hour, director McG reportedly hired nearby vacationing scribes Adi Hasak and Luc Besson to mold his troubled project into an action triller (car chases and sub-plots, he reasoned, would distract moviegoers from Costner's visible lack of raison d'être). This coincided with Relativity Media's abrupt scuttling of the Connie Nielsen/Hailee Steinfeld fish-out-of-water comedy La Mom, which shared the same locations and crew as 3 Days to Kill--meaning McG got two bonus wattages of star power, absolutely free. The resulting film is a cross between Uncle Buck and Taken, with the worst aspects of Quantum of Solace thrown in, because that movie was kinda successful.

Even though that synopsis is 100% made-up, I challenge anyone who's seen this thing to tell me it's not 200% more entertaining than the real deal. How obscenely well-compensated were the creative team that they can stand-by this at once tonally inconsistent and spiritually dead tax write-off? Besson is a once and future god, and say what you want about McG--he knows how to produce slick, fun stuff (granted, mostly in the realm of TV). Had this been the first film for either artiste, it would almost certainly have been their last.

Fine, fine. I'll make with the goods. 3 Days to Kill is actually about Ethan Renner (Costner), the world's worst spy. He's the kind of husky-voiced, brooding jerk who stops to make a birthday call to his estranged daughter on a payphone during an operation targeting the planet's most elusive terrorist. I'd like to attribute his consistently poor judgment to the tumor growing in his brain (which grants him three months to live), but the hits just keep on coming:

He accepts One Last Mission from Vivi (Amber Heard, in her ninetieth non-starter role of the decade), a kooky, ambitious CIA spy who promises him phased injections of a super-secret serum that might just save his life. Incidentally, the mission lands him in France, and affords him not only the chance to make things right with ex-wife Christine (Nielsen) and daughter Zooey (Steinfeld), but to potentially put them in the cross hairs of his target, The Wolf (Richard Sammel). Seriously, Renner was chosen because he's the only "good guy" to ever see The Wolf and live. Because The Wolf knows this, and because he has unlimited nefarious resources at his disposal, is it really a good idea for an alleged master spy to parade his loved ones up and down the streets of Paris? 

Were this the only plot brewing in this movie, 3 Days to Kill might be tolerably bland. But I haven't mentioned the family of African squatters living in Ethan's Parisian apartment; or The Wolf's scummy driver (Marc Andreoni), who is the subject of several "hilarious" torture vignettes; or Zooey's bumbling French boyfriend; or Vivi's apparent infatuation with Ethan; or Ethan's apparent infatuation with his ex; and on and on and on. A more appropriate title for this focus-free monstrosity would have been 3 Days to End.

The movie's greatest sin is that the filmmakers assume that we care about these Z-grade knock-off characters and sub-plots that have been handled much more effectively elsewhere. I've seen Lethal Weapon, Taken, Casino Royale, Leon: The Professional, and dozens of others. 3 Days to Kill doesn't even make it fifty rungs up the recommendation ladder. Even if you've never seen such a movie, this is the very last place to start.

Between the hilarious mismatching of dialogue and mouth movements (not once, not twice--I stopped counting at four); Heard's confusing role, which made me fondly recall Lady Gaga's in the execrable Machete Kills (also starring Heard); and the nails-pulling convention whereby Ethan Renner collapses into a sweaty, hallucinating heap every time he comes close to nabbing one of the key villains, I couldn't help but think this film was once made for adults. But pass after pass after pass of the muddy assemblage of spare plot-parts yielded something no self-respecting, sentient person would waste nearly two hours of their lives on--which led to a PG-13 rating and a February release date.* This is speculation, of course, but, again, I defy you to come up with a better explanation.

For me, the only bright spot in 3 Days to Kill is the scene where Ethan teaches Zooey to ride a bike. It's not a particularly good scene, thanks in part to that awful ADR problem, but it takes place on the steps of Sacre Coeur Basilica. Almost exactly twelve years ago, I proposed to my wife on those steps. For a moment, all the promise, romance, and excitement that fundamentally transformed my life came rushing back, in the middle of a crappy Kevin Costner movie. God help anyone who doesn't have a similar mental oasis to swim towards during this thing.

*The Robocop remake is a completely different story.