Luc Besson is one of those rare breed of filmmakers that is not necessarily a household name in America, but chances are everyone has seen at least one or two of his films. Though 3 Days to Kill is directed by McG, Producer and Co-Writer, Luc Besson has his fingerprints all over this film. When walking into a Luc Besson film, especially in his recent crop of films, you can expect several things, French location, quirky characters, brutal violence and a borderline tone-be-damned sense of humor that could only be described as “European.” His films are an acquired taste, and the fact that his recent efforts don’t quite match the quality of his earlier work like La Femme Nikita, Léon or The Fifth Element certainly doesn’t help. However, his Woody Allen level of workload has certainly created a brand out of his name to the point where a simple screenwriting credit gives you an idea for what you’re in for, regardless of who is directing. 3 Days to Kill is no exception.
CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is diagnosed with cancer and is offered one last job at a time when he is hoping to reconnect with his wife, Christine, and daughter, Zoey (Connie Nielson and Hailee Steinfeld, respectively). He reluctantly accepts the opportunity from Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) since she offers a drug that could save his life in return. The film follows Ethan as he tracks down a terrorist, connect with his daughter, go through the debilitating side-effects of the drugs and deal with the bums that have been squatting in his Parisian apartment.
So yeah, there is quite a bit going on the film, but it ultimately does a fine job balancing and prioritizing each plotline, adequately developing each one as needed. Some may be turned off by the fact that the action seems to take a back seat to the development between Ethan and Zoey, but there are enough action scenes that come in at the right time before things get dull. Now, let’s not pretend this is going to be an action classic, it’s not. The overall story is quite ridiculous, the humor can be hit-and-miss for some, and like I said, the target audience might not get into the story with Zoey, especially when it gets to some really cheesy territory when Ethan teaches her how to ride a bicycle.
However, there is quite a bit to like. Kevin Costner is excellent, he provides for a lot of energy and enthusiasm (and lack, thereof) that the role requires, and he is clearly having fun making the film. He also plays an excellent straight man to some of the bizarre encounters he has, especially with the character Viva Delay, who gave him his last job. The character of Viva is delightfully out of place; the best way I could possibly describe her actions and mannerisms, is that she’s like a Bond girl from a Bond film directed by David Lynch. It has to be seen to be believed, and though a character like this would normally kill a film, I found myself amused, especially at Ethan’s reactions to her.
The most impressive part for me was Hailee Steinfeld as Ethan’s daughter, Zoey Renner. Before going into the film, I was worried that a once promising up-and-coming actress would be wasted in a throw-away role. Granted, it’s still a relatively throw-away role, but she manages to bring in a great amount of personality and charm to her role that any lesser actress would have simply made bland. I also greatly appreciated that the character did not simply become a damsel-in-distress in the final act, a move that genuinely surprised me, especially considering how easily they could have done let the bad guys use her as leverage against Ethan. It’s also safe to say that she still has the talent that earned her an Academy Award nomination back in 2011, since she manages to hold her own, even when she is playing off of Kevin Costner, a beloved, veteran Hollywood legend.
It would not be much of a stretch to say that 3 Days to Kill Is by far the best in McG’s filmography, along with We Are Marshall (which is also the least McG-esque), since most of his other work ranges from meh to garbage. Here, he does a fine job putting Luc Besson and, co-writer, Adi Hasak’s vision on screen, keeping things entertaining and at a brisk enough pace to keep you from thinking too hard about the plot. The only thing that I could bring up regarding the direction is the quick-cutting within action scenes, obviously there to keep things PG-13. Though, definitely not as bad as it could have been, it is noticeable at a few points. Overall, the film is very entertaining; calling it “good” is indeed up for debate, but the purpose of the film is to have fun, and well, I had a lot fun. Though, I understand if some want to wait for the inevitable “Unrated” version on its home video release.
Side Note: Luc Besson has produced and written Brick Mansions, the remake of his 2004 film, District 13 (which is definitely worth a watch), and it is the final major release of Paul Walker’s filmography before Fast & Furious 7, after his tragic death on November 30, 2013. Brick Mansions is due to hit theaters on April 25, 2014.