It is mid-May as I write this, and I think we can easily note that 2014 is the year of Kevin Costner. Guy has been in a mainstream romantic comedy, another installment of a franchise film, and may have another film or two coming down the pipe. If you have not already taken up using an accent which you choose to use intermittently or look really nice in your twenties and thirties, or decide to take up a movie that uses a near-entirety of scrap metal on an island, now is the time to do so I guess.
Going into 3 Days To Kill I knew little about the film. Co-written by Adi Hasak (From Paris With Love) and, Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), McG (We Are Marshall) directed. Costner plays Ethan Renner, an agent in the CIA who was given missions to kill people for four decades and counting. The cold he thinks he has picked up while on an assignment in Latvia is an illness that is fatal. He is helped through it by Vivi (Amber Heard, Machete Kills), but the illness is actually one where he has weeks, maybe months, to live. Ethan decides he wants to reconcile with his family, specifically his daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit). He attempts to be more of a Dad to her in his final time while trying to balance attempting to kill the (hyperbolically) most ruthless terrorist in the world.
The first act and change of 3 Days To Kill for my wife was trite and boring. Little was being accomplished, the execution of it (to her) was poor, to the point of painful. On the other hand, I felt there was a bit of intrigue for me because Costner to a degree could have been playing Ethan in a slightly autobiographic manner like Clint Eastwood did in Unforgiven, vis a vis ‘retiring' one of the personae of the actor so everyone can move on. With Besson's writing, moments of tenderness between older and younger characters, sometimes parental, sometimes maybe not (The Professional?) could be inferred. Additionally, Costner has the faculties to help show the loss or regret about not making a connection on a parental or in a different scenario, romantic view.
He also manages to play the moments of comedy in 3 Days To Kill quite well, such as anytime the ringtone Zooey has assigned to her calls happens. The chemistry between Costner and Steinfeld is good; it is not the first time the latter has worked next to a polished, award-winning actor and it will not be the last. Steinfeld also works well in the film with her movie mother, portrayed by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), and the scenes where Steinfeld is supposed to be the stereotypical rebellious teen girl next to the occasional old-fashioned values Dad in Costner are fine.
But one of the problems in 3 Days To Kill is just that, those scenes are fine. They are not memorable, nor do they have any resonance with the characters. The second and third acts do not live up to the execution and storytelling of the first. In a way, with this movie McG seems be attempting to do a Luc Besson film, but doing it without a lot of input from Luc Besson. And those differences show themselves well in the latter two thirds of the film as it appears Ethan and Zooey are going through the motions and doing a lot of stunts for the sake of doing them (which would be a McG note) as opposed to picking the clearest path for his characters to take (generally a Besson note). The film suffers as a result.
Not to wholly impugn him, because McG in recent years has tended to mellow out from his energy drink marinated and downright silly action sequences. They look pretty good and the first sequence alone is one that was devoid of excessive flashing, banging or slow motion shots that Zack Snyder seems to do a lot of now. It is a more refined McG, one that does have his moments of action film gratuitousness yet remains entertaining. Costner and Steinfeld are fine in their roles and I was left wondering if Heard could have done more. Less from an attractiveness perspective and one from mystique. McG tends to capture one facet of his characters in 3 Days To Kill well, it just proves to be not the most important ones.
The final legacy of 3 Days To Kill for me would be that the first day is nice, interesting, one that leaves you wanting to know more about the other two days. While the second day starts nice it plays with your patience a touch before being a disappointment in the third day, taking too long and being somewhat conventional while losing any sort of substance it may have had. One would presume that Costner's "year" turns out to be much better on its second attempt down the road.
There are two versions of 3 Days To Kill, the 117-minute theatrical cut and a 122-minute extended one. Both are presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and in high-definition, using the AVC codec and it looks excellent. Image detail is exceptional through the film, whether it is the wrinkles in Costner's face or damn close to spotting an occasional blemish in Heard's, but when you get to wider shots in Paris and Serbia, the early evening skies look amazing, textures on hotel walls or facades can be spotted, and colors all look vivid without oversaturation. Really superb work from Fox.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track does work early on when Ethan chases The Albino in and around the hotel in the first scene and rarely lets up. Gunfire puts a nice low-end punch to it, directional effects are ample and effective whether it is a firefight or when Ethan is locating Zooey when the latter is at a club. The subwoofer starts out involved and generally stays that way. In quieter moments, dialogue is consistent and little compensation is needed while watching. A really good track.
Things start with "Making of 3 Days to Kill" (9:55), where the cast talks about the story, working with one another, McG and Besson to a lesser degree, along with working in Paris. "McG's Method" (4:39) is where the cast share their thoughts on the director and said director gets reflective. "Covert Operation" (5:08) is where Robert Baer (a former CIA operative) talks about his prior life and the toll it took on him and his marriage. A trailer (2:25) completes things, but there is also a code for a digital copy through UltraViolet, along with a standard definition disc.
Some of the things in 3 Days To Kill are interesting; the aging man dealing with saying goodbye to his past, even if his future is not all that bright. Hailee Steinfeld as the daughter was fun to watch, along with Costner and Heard but the film squanders their appeal as it goes on. Technically, it is excellent from both audio and video perspectives, but it absolutely could have used some work on the supplement side of things. Worth renting for those of you (like me) who have not seen Costner in awhile and are wondering what he may be up to next.