Monday, April 7, 2014

"3 DAYS TO KILL" (2014) Review

"3 DAYS TO KILL" (2014) Review

Although I have seen Kevin Costner appear in movies recently, they have mainly been in supporting roles. So image my surprise when I discovered that he had a leading role in a film that recently hit the movie theaters. I heard a good deal of negative press about it, but due to sheer boredom, I decided to go see it, anyway. 

Written by Adi Hasak and Luc Besson, and directed by McG; "3 DAYS TO KILL" is about veteran C.I.A. agent Ethan Renner, who is manipulated into carrying out one last mission for the agency, in exchange for an experimental drug that might cure his cancer. The story begins in Berlin where Ethan and a team of fellow agents converge upon a hotel to find and capture "The Albino", lieutenant to an arms trafficker called "The Wolf". The operation's leader, assassin Vivi Delay, has been informed that "The Wolf" is selling a dirty bomb to some terrorists. "The Albino" becomes aware of the trap when he recognizes one of the C.I.A. agents. Renner manages to shoot "The Albino" in the leg, but not capture him. And the veteran agent passes out.

When Renner regains consciousness inside a hospital, his doctor informs him that he is dying of brain cancer and that the disease has spread to his lungs. Renner realizes that he had spent most of his career keeping it a secret from his estranged wife Christine and daughter Zoey and damaging his relationship with them. He becomes determined to fix his relationship with his family upon his return to Paris. However, his efforts are threatened when Vivi Delay approaches him with a deal - to find and kill "The Wolf", in exchange for an experimental drug that could extend his life significantly. He reluctantly accepts in order to get more time with his family. 

I could say that "3 DAYS TO KILL" failed spectacularly at the box office. But since it ended up making a profit of seven million dollars, perhaps I will limit my observation to a failure to become a bit hit. The critics really raked this film over the coals. The only positive comments I have heard about this film came from my boss, who thought it was pretty good. One could say . . . what does he know? Well, I saw the movie, because I could not find anything else to do. And honestly? I rather liked it. In fact, I liked it a bit more than Kevin Costner's other Winter 2014 film, namely "JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT". Why? I thought "3 DAYS TO KILL" was a more original film. Renner's mission to hunt down and kill a notorious arms dealer did not strike me as particularly original. But when Besson and Hasak added the element of a doomed agent dying of cancer, an experimental drug and family problems . . . well, I found myself spellbound by the story. Perhaps other moviegoers and critics would have preferred a more unoriginal tale. I certainly would not have appreciated it. All I can do is sigh with relief that "3 DAYS TO KILL" proved to be such an odd and if I may say so, entertaining film.

The movie also featured some top-notch action sequences, deftly shot by McG and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast; and skillfully edited by Audrey Simonaud. The scenes that especially come to mind are the original attempt to snatch "The Albino" in Berlin, Renner's kidnapping of Mitat Yilmaz, limousine driver for "The Wolf", an attempt on Renner's life at a local grocery store, Renner's killing of "The Albino" at a subway and the final action sequence in which Renner goes after "The Wolf" at a party held by the parents of Zoey's boyfriend. I also enjoyed Arogast's photography of Berlin and especially Paris, considering that the story is set in the late fall. The costumes designed by Olivier Bériot and Roemehl Hawkins not only struck me as very chic, but perfect for a clothing boutique.

As much as I liked "3 DAYS TO KILL", it had its problems. I must admit that the idea of an experimental drug that can cure cancer seemed to be stretching it a bit, despite its originality. I really hate to say this, but I found Amber Heard's character, Vivi Delay, rather hard to swallow. Actually, I rather disliked the character. She seemed rather over-the-top to me, reminding me of some over-the-top Bond villain or villainess - despite the fact that she was a protagonist. And honestly? Amber Heard is not John Travolta or Al Pacino, who can be hammy with style. My last problem with "3 DAYS TO KILL" has to do with the last action sequence. As much as I liked it, I found it rather flawed. The biggest mistake that Besson, Hasak and McG did was inter-cut Renner's last attempt to kill "The Wolf" with scenes of his daughter Zoey and her boyfriend Hugh, cuddling and who knows what else, in a private room of the club. It just did not work. Especially since the moments with Zoey and Hugh did not really add to the action sequence.

Although I was not impressed with Amber Heard's hammy performance, at least I was impressed by Kevin Costner and other members of the cast. What can I say about Costner? Well . . . he gave a performance that reminded me why I became a big fan of his so many years ago. I was especially impressed by how he balanced the professional and private lives of his character, Ethan Renner. Hailee Steinfeld, who had made such an impression in her Oscar-nominated performance in 2010's "TRUE GRIT", proved to be equally impressive as Renner's strong-willed and slightly eccentric daughter, Zoey. Connie Nielsen made a nice impression as Renner's ex-wife. Unfortunately, I wish she could have been in the film a little longer. Both Richard Sammuel ("INGLORIOUS BASTERDS") and Tómas Lemarquis gave impressive performances as the arms dealer "The Wolf" and his lieutenant "The Albino". Eriq Ebouaney gave a charming performance as the West African who squats in Ethan's Paris apartment, along with his family. But the performance that I found really entertaining was Marc Andréoni's portrayal of Mitat Yilmaz, limousine driver of "The Wolf". Like Costner, he did a first-rate job of balancing his character's dangerous profession and his private life as a family man with a great deal of sharp humor.

What else can I say about "3 DAYS TO KILL"? I would never regard it as one of the best action movies I have seen. And it certainly had its flaws. But I did end up enjoying it, much to my surprise, especially since I found the screenplay written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak rather original. More importantly, I thought the screenplay was well served by energetic direction from McG and first-rate performances (well, most of them) from a cast led by Kevin Costner.

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