3 Days to Kill

Despite being released in Hollywood’s February dead zone, this is a film that is likely to surprise you on multiple levels.

3 Days to KillWhile I have discussed Director/Screenwriter Luc Besson’s productive career before, his recent work with Liam Neeson was increasingly woeful. Both of their Taken films (2008 and 2012) did little more than involve Mr. Neeson in violent fights with East European terrorists who continually found a way to kidnap a member of his family. It left you with the unfortunate feeling that you were secretly hoping that they would kill Neeson’s loved ones and simply end the blasted series.

With 3 Days to Kill, it looked like Kevin Costner had joined forces with Mr. Besson, here the Screenwriter, to travel the same path. However, it turns out to be a dark, amusingly violent film that once again reminds you that Mr. Costner is a fine actor.

Here, he plays Ethan Renner, an aging CIA assassin who finds out he is dying from brain cancer. His life has evolved into a quagmire where a sense of professional duty conflicts with a numbing sense of lost hope and dreams.

Let me acknowledge from the outset that there are profoundly ridiculous moments in this film, so don’t venture expecting the script to be nominated for any major awards. Without spilling any of the cinematic beans, Costner’s CIA boss offers him a convenient cancer treatment if he’ll complete his remaining homicidal duties.

Sure, that was absurd, but it really didn’t matter. Costner is flat-out excellent as a would-be dying agent simply wanting to spend some quality moments with an abandoned family. As an example of the genuine dark humor  provided by this film, there are multiple times when he is on the verge of viciously interrogating a suspect when he is interrupted by a phone call from his daughter. In particular, look for a stellar sequence where he hands his cell  phone to a confined Italian victim and forces the poor man to give his questioning daughter information on how to make good pasta.

While the plot is intriguing enough to consistently hold your attention, the performances of Connie Nielsen and Hailee Steinfeld as Costner’s abandoned wife and daughter are marvelous. Ms. Nielsen holds her own as a professional ex-wife who still cares for the man who walked away from her, and Ms. Steinfeld is marvelous as an angry young girl who only calls her father by his first name.

Ms. Steinfeld, who is but 17, holds the entire film together with her warm portrayal of a confused teenager. She is mad about a lot of things, not the least of which is her confused father’s attempt to give her a bike that she does not know how to ride. She once again reminds everyone in the audience of her brilliant performance in the remake of True Grit (2010).

You are also not likely to forget the stunning performance by Amber Heard, here playing Costner’s extraordinarily hot CIA boss. Overseeing his mission in Paris, wait ‘til you see her in her short blonde hair, bright red lips, tight short dresses, black seams running up the back of her nylons and 5 inch heels. The scene where she is standing over Costner’s face as he lies wounded on the pavement is as sexually unnerving as when Margot Robbie stuck her high heel in to DiCaprio’s forehead as they both were on the floor in The Wolf of Wall Street.

While all of the villains are a nasty bunch, it will not surprise you that most of them eventually end up dead. Ironically, most of the film’s focus is on a guy simply trying to make up for lost time.

Costner’s bedraggled character saved all of his home movies made when his daughter was young, and he is frequently seen watching them as he desperately tries to reconnect with a lost world. He is a violent man who you root for, and as a result this is a film that is worth hunting down.