By Alexia Evripidou
3 Days To Kill stars Kevin Costner as the cancer riddled CIA hit-man Ethan Renner trying to make amends to his estranged family while running a ‘last time’ assassination job in exchange for potential life saving medication. This semi charming French-American action thriller, which is set in Paris, has had a mixed welcome by reviewers. My favourite being ‘pure trash but entertaining as hell’. Although it isn’t PURE trash, it does have a very 1990s film style to it, which some might argue is outdated. However, with its vintage story telling style, 3 Days To Kill is indeed entertaining as hell. Plus, it brings Costner back to our screens in top form, seeing him tackle the ‘deadly dangerous assassin/exacerbated father of a hormonal teenage daughter’ role, very smoothly.
Seasoned with a bit of everything, the film feasts on: shoot outs, family drama, bloody guts, car chases, love, teenage angst, father/daughter conflict, terminal illness and even a CIA spandex-wearing dominatrix style boss with peroxide wigs and syringes; it is not boring if nothing else. Did I mention the purple ladies bicycle which seems to be the missing link to Ethan’s personal and working life!
Directed by McG and written by Luc Besson with Adi Hasak, the team unearthed Costner to play the traditionally Liam Neeson’s ‘family loving older but deadly man with a gun’ role. Wishing to make peace with his estranged family, Ethan goes to Paris to teach his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) to ride the purple bike in between shooting lots of people and receiving the cancer killing medication. This is pretty much the crux of the plot.
Back in Paris, he and his family live separately. Ethan returns to his flat after a substantial absence, finding a Malian family with a teenage pregnant daughter and a young son squatting there. Ethan caves, while pointing a gun at them, and tells them they can stay until the girl gives birth. As long as they keep out of his way when he brings home gangsters to bind and torture. An agreement which ultimately doesn’t work out quite as well as he’d hoped, but does have warm and funny consequences.
Meanwhile, Ethan pops out shopping for fish, and in walks CIA femme fetale Vivi (Amber Heard). Vivi appears to have wandered in from an entirely different movie, potentially from a bad film noir made in the late 90s. Wearing a blonde wig, seamed stockings, and shiny red lipstick, she is a vision that stands out like a sore thumb in the gentle Parisian fish market.
Vivi makes Ethan an offer he can’t refuse: ‘to kill or die’. The mission involves hunting down the odious Albino (Tomas Lemarquis) and his secret backer, the Wolf (Richard Samuel), before they can detonate a suitcase bomb in Paris. In exchange, Vivi gives him a big fat cheque and regular jabs of medication which make him hallucinate at wholly undesirable times, usually when someone has a gun pointed at this head.
Although he’d already promised his estranged wife that he would give up killing people for a living, this offer seems to be Ethan’s only chance of living longer. Torn, he accepts.
The film is half action, half family drama but is also funny. The main thread of humour is the running joke of the tense action scenes, which are interrupted by the Swedish pop disco-punk song ”I Love It (I! Don’t! Care!)”, each time his daughter calls him. She programmed this song into his phone. Every time, he has to take a break from the violence and play the good daddy again.
Arguably the lovable assassin was brought to our attention in the mid 1990s. Luc Besson introduced it with The Professional (1994). That same year Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta arrived as lovable killers in Pulp Fiction. Since then, assassins can kill and still be loved. You can’t help but fear the aloof murderous Ethan and like him simultaneously; he’s just a regular Jo at heart.
Although I have never really been a Costner fan, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy his cool assassin / daddy performance. He has come back lean and looking tapered. At 59, he is now a more mature version of his rugged younger self and although I believe that Costner can only really play himself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Consequently, concerned about the rumoured low brow humour of the film, I once again found myself laughing, and often. Note; I was not alone in doing so. Again, this film may not be the critics’ favourite but 3 Days To Kill is action packed, heart warming and funny.
DIRECTED BY McG
STARRING Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
USA/France 2014 117mins