An American in Paris: Kevin Costner in Three Days to Kill

by Mark Burger

Whether it’s a soldier on his last mission, a thief on his last heist, or a spy on his last assignment, something is bound to go wrong.

The latter scenario applies to Kevin Costner in Three Days to Kill, the latest bit of international intrigue cooked up by producer Luc Besson, who also wrote the screenplay with fellow producer Adi Hasak but left the directorial chores to McG, who knows a thing or two about big-screen mayhem having previously helmed Terminator: Salvation (2009) and the Charlie’s Angels films.

Costner’s Ethan Renner is a burned-out, ailing CIA operative who’s only got a few months left to live. He’d like nothing more than to make amends with his estranged wife Christina (Connie Nielsen) and their teen-aged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), but is offered one last assignment that comes with the added bonus of an experimental drug that could cure his condition.

While dealing with domestic issues like Zoey’s adolescent angst, Ethan combs Paris in search of Euro-baddies “the Albino” (Tomas Lemarquis) and “the Wolf” (Richard Sammel), who are mixed up in illegal arms-dealing (or something like that). With monikers like that, it hardly matters. They need to be eliminated.

For all the fisticuffs, car chases and shoot-outs, there’s never a gendarme around when you need one. Then again, Three Days to Kill is hardly interested in anything remotely resembling credibility.

Ethan’s contact, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), is the sort of CIA agent who favors stiletto heels, fingerless gloves, black leather, and an ever-changing hairdo. The film definitely leans toward the comedic, although it also leans toward over-length.

Costner, for his part, is excellent as the grizzled Ethan, adopting a pseudo-Clint Eastwood growl and a bemused tough-guy attitude that’s just this side of tongue-in-cheek. Unlike some of his earlier action ventures (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld, The Postman) where his earnestness bordered on wooden, he’s relaxed and appealing, and clearly having a good time. There’s also a scene-stealing turn by Marc Andreoni as an informant who gives Ethan pointers on parenthood even when being tortured by him. Steinfeld’s turn as a rebellious teen is fairly typical, but at least she has more to do than in last year’s franchise non-starter Ender’s Game and – besides – she got a free trip to France.

All things considered, if you’ve got two hours to kill, you could do worse than Three Days to Kill. !

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