Directed by McG (of “This Means War”) and written by Adi Hasak and Luc Besson (who wrote “Taken 2” and “Colombiana”), “3 Days to Kill” is essentially everything wrong with spy movies of this ilk. The entire U.S. government is inept, except for this one agent, who can save everyone! This terrorist is totally evil and awful, but no one has heard of him before. There are random characters who only exist to provide support to the white male protagonist. There are pretty women who want to sleep with said white male protagonist, no matter that he is literally old enough to be their father. And so on and so forth, every cliché you could think. What’s the point of this? Nothing, really.
The film focuses on aging spy Ethan (Costner, of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and “Man of Steel”), who after botching an operation in Syria is essentially fired by the CIA. Someone dies on his watch, but Ethan shows zero remorse since it’s revealed that he’s actually dying, too, with brain and lung cancer. Realizing that he should probably reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld, of “Ender’s Game” and “Romeo and Juliet”), whom he hasn’t seen in five years, Ethan travels to Paris and attempts to spend his last days with them. But a large family of African immigrants is squatting in his apartment, and Zoey doesn’t want to see him, and Christine is worried that he hasn’t finally left the CIA for good. Can they really trust him?
Well, probably not. Because CIA underling Vivi (Amber Heard, of “Paranoia” and “The Rum Diary”) essentially goes rogue and hires Ethan herself to track down international terrorist The Wolf (Richard Sammel), who is dangerous for some reason or another; it’s never really explained. She convinces him to renege on his promise to Christine by bribing him with an “experimental drug” to extend his life, as long as he kills The Wolf; afterward, he can live his life in happiness, with the family he’s lied to for years! Oh, what a loving relationship they all have.
Aside from the stupidity of all of this, the film fails most spectacularly at developing any kind of discernible rhythm or storytelling consistency. Perhaps Hasak’s and Besson’s storytelling doesn’t translate, but more probably it was just awful to begin with. There are so many issues, but it all stems from a serious lack of urgency. Ethan is dying, but the only sign is a weak cough every now and then; he’s still healthy enough to wear a revolving array of dad-jeans and dad-khakis while abusing immigrants and torturing Muslims. And let’s keep reiterating what a strong American white man he is, with his constant namedropping of the Pittsburgh Steelers and his instance that American football is more “real” than soccer, because that’s important. Similarly, he Wolf is a super-bad guy, but why he’s so evil is never thoroughly explained or depicted. There are only three days left to save the world, but you wouldn’t know that from how often Ethan wanders around Paris, trailing his daughter and being annoyed with her boyfriend. It’s like a spy movie crossed with a Lifetime special; it goes nowhere.
Oh, there’s so much other terribleness. Heard’s CIA handler might be the worse, an utterly nonsensical character who shows up every 20 or so minutes to shove her cleavage in Ethan’s face and try to get his senior-citizen self to sleep with her. There’s also the film’s bizarrely racist overtones toward Africans and Muslims, treating both groups as leeches on Paris’s otherwise-great white society. And, if you can make it to the end, there’s the conclusion, which disregards The Wolf’s supposedly international infamy and wraps things up all nice and tidy.
Actually, why should I be so surprised by that? Nothing else about “3 Days to Kill” makes sense, so a stupid ending is in line with this. What a fantastic waste of time.
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