3 Days To Kill is nothing short of an incoherent disaster-unworthy of even the most modest ticket price. Directed by Joseph McGinty and written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, this action thriller follows the story of Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner), a former CIA operative trying desperately to win back the affection of his estranged daughter, Zoey. After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Ethan is approached by Vivi (Amber Heard), a “sassy” (though “promiscuous” and “witless” may be better descriptors) secret agent who offers Ethan an “experimental drug” to alleviate his condition. In exchange, Ethan must help Vivi hunt down two of the most forgettable villains in recent film: “The Albino” and “The Wolf.”
There are simply too many issues with this film to compact in one review, but let’s start with the cast. To his credit, Costner gives a solid effort in portraying Ethan. If nothing else, Costner makes the film almost tolerable. Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) is everything you’d expect in a stereotypical 16-year-old brat with daddy issues: she’s moody, annoying, and utterly unlikeable. Vivi is a complete anomaly. It’s hard to fathom how bizarre, obnoxious, and uninteresting this character is. She resembles a 12-year-old boy’s impression of what a strong, sexy, international spy would be. In all likelihood, Heard was probably cast just to fulfill the “hot chick” quota. The other characters barely do anything and aren’t even worth mentioning.
The action plot is simply ridiculous. Why Vivi relies so heavily on Ethan, what the Wolf’s and the Albino’s plans are, and why any of it matters remain a mystery. Vivi mentions how Ethan is qualified because he is dying and therefore has nothing to lose (except of course his daughter). While Ethan may be a great shot, the ailing cancer patient hallucinating on experimental drugs who collapses every time his target is within his sights and passes out may not be the best man for the job. Sure, this is a big action film, no one expects total realism, but the lapses in logic are so profound that the result is a convoluted catastrophe.
3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly strange blend of comedy, family drama, and action. It’s fairly pathetic how McGinty poorly integrates these elements in a cluttered mess of “what am I even watching?” For example, McGinty likes to use cheap humor during multiple torture/interrogation scenes. It’s impossible to determine if Ethan is supposed to be a badass or just a quirky father. The jokes are bland, awkward, redundant, and forced-crickets will probably have a heyday with this movie.
The father-daughter relationship is riddled with endless cliches. The same conflict is hammered into the audience again and again: Ethan wasn’t around for Zoey because he was too busy shooting bad guys. Ethan’s redemption manifests in boring scenes involving flying swings, drinking cocoa, and teaching Zoey how to ride a bike. McGinty relies heavily on painfully generic and schmaltzy music to convey every single emotion. The biggest problem with the family drama element is that it consumes so much of the two-hour runtime that it’s easy to forget that 3 Days to Kill is an “action thriller.”
The biggest irony of 3 Days to Kill is that the action sequences, which are the least terrible part of the film, unfortunately coerce the movie into an absolute tonal nightmare. Aside from shoot-outs and chase scenes, all of which leaned more toward realism, nearly everything else in McGinty’s film suggests it was meant to be somewhere between a goofy comedy and family drama. We go so quickly from Ethan and Zoey sipping cocoa to Ethan taking a shotgun shell to the chest: the effect is dizzying. The editing seems noticeably jumpy and the tone shifts so dramatically back and forth throughout the entire film that it’s unclear if 3 Days to Kill was even meant to be taken seriously.
Overall, there is absolutely no reason to waste time and money on this movie. 3 Days to Kill‘s biggest fault is that it’s not even bad enough to be entertaining. Some movies are terrible but can still be thoroughly enjoyable-this isn’t one of them.