3 Days To Kill
"The comedy and thriller aspects of the film don't always gel but the character work is generally strong enough to carry us through it."

When he first started getting leading roles in films like The Untouchables and No Way Out, Kevin Costner had a lot of promise. Then things went wrong as they do for so many actors: Dances With Wolves made him a huge star and before he knew it he was up to his neck in Waterworld and The Postman. Fortunately he has now come ou at the other end of that, too old for standard leading man roles, ready to do something more interesting again - and although 3 Days To Kill is pretty routine stuff, it's great to see him back on form.

Here he plays Ethan, a former secret agent who has retired due in part to illness; he has a brain tumour and occasionally just collapses, unable to make sense of what's going on around him. He wants to spend his final days with his ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and teenage daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld). Even in this situation, however, the past has a way of catching up with men like him. Enter Amber Heard's mysterious Vivi, Manga-glamorous and looking as if she's wandered onto the wrong set by mistake, but soon getting her bearings, offering Ethan an experimental drug that could save his life if he will carry out one last mission for her. This involves old enemies, sinister Serbian terrorist The Wolf (Richard Sammel) and his sidekick The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis). Genres fuse as Costner's rough-edged realist hero is sucked into something that feels like a cartoon, but when Christine goes away, he has to integrate state-sanctioned murder with being a full time dad.

Copy picture

There's a lot of cliché here but Costner nevertheless makes Ethan endearing and the always reliable Steinfeld shines as Zooey, making the most of the culture gap, at least as big a deal as the age gap, between them. Even in the token cheesy scene where Ethan rescues her from sexual peril she maintains an aloofness that offers no apologies for a father who has been absent throughout most of her life. Confounded by the situation, Ethan turns to the fellow hitmen he is kidnapping and interrogating for advice, parenting lessons and even pasta recipes. The comedy and thriller aspects of the film don't always gel but the character work is generally strong enough to carry us through it, and the film maintains just enough of an edge as we move toward its predictable but effective climax.

It would be churlish to criticise the film too much for its predictability because what it really seems to want to do is paint an intentionally familiar picture of the secret world so as to explore the way it affects agents' personal lives, with Christine unable to be close to Ethan because of the strain. Nielsen brings real maturity and warmth to her role, a nice contrast with Vivi's bid for our hero's sexual attention, and it's good to see a film in this genre with so many strong roles for women. Although it doesn't have many new things to say and it never achieves the emotional complexity of obvious predecessor The American Friend, 3 Days To Kill has some great action sequences, characters you'll care about and enough energy to confirm Costner as an actor who can once again deliver.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2014
Share this with others on...
3 Days To Kill packshot
A retired secret agent facing terminal brain cancer is persuaded to take on one last job, but has to try and look after his estranged teenage daughter at the same time.
Amazon link

Director: McG

Writer: Adi Hasak, Luc Besson

Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard

Year: 2014

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, France, Greece, Russia

Festivals:


Search database: