3 Days to Kill knows the boundaries of its absurdity and strangely crafts an intimate tale about a father-daughter relationship. Kevin Costner plays Ethan Renner, a spy who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and told he has about 3-5 months to live. Before he falls into his sickness, he is tasked with taking out the Albino (Tómas Lemarquis) and the Wolf (Richard Sammel), two men that are apparently doing very bad things because they are villains without true names. It involves dirty bombs and international turmoil. The story wisely doesn’t indulge in these excesses of story. Ethan meets Vivi (Amber Heard, who embodies the classic femme fatale and has a changing hair color in every scene), a CIA operative that gives him an experimental drug to potentially curb his cancer. She makes a deal with him that, if he returns to the field to take out these men, he can be rid of his previous life. He goes to Paris where his wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), live, and tries to rekindle those relationships. The problem is, his wife doesn’t seem to love him anymore and his daughter has never known him. Most spy films would use this story as the background and emphasize the espionage, but that’s where 3 Days to Kill becomes this weird, self-aware, ludicrous, yet borderline inexplicably compelling thriller.
Kevin Costner is a versatile and underrated actor. And here, playing what can only be seen as a feeble, more unkempt version of Liam Neeson from Taken, 3 Days to Kill becomes strikingly unique in that it cares deeply and passionately about its central figure. We root for Ethan because we realize that his career has destroyed his personal life and that, no matter how good he may be at his job, it will never allow him the satisfaction of life’s simplest moments. It’s such a clichéd element of spy narratives, and the movie’s filled with strange racial stereotypes that are inexplicably present. Two scenes in particular speak those truths, however cheesy and hokey they may be: one where he teaches Zoey how to ride a bike, and the other when he holds the baby of a newly found friend, something he was never able to do for his daughter’s birth. Steinfeld is an impressive presence, taking control of a rather thankless role and making it her own. She’s remarkable. I find it difficult writing a mildly positive review about a movie that’s getting disastrously reviewed by critics, but I got a kick out of how unabashedly all-over-the-place it was.
Grade: ★★★ (out of 5)