You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘3 Days to Kill’

Luc Besson recruits McG and Kevin Costner for a fatally compromised tale of an American spy in Paris.


Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Tomas Lemarquis, Richard Sammel, Marc Andreoni, Bruno Ricci, Jonas Bloquet, Eriq Ebouaney, Joakhim Sigue. (English, French dialogue)

Even international spies have trouble balancing work and family life, according to “3 Days to Kill,” the latest lightweight action pic from writer-producer Luc Besson, here forming an unlikely (or perhaps unholy) trinity with director McG and star Kevin Costner. Surely the goal of the resulting tonal mishmash was to reignite Costner’s career a la what happened for Liam Neeson after Besson’s “Taken,” but any possibility of sleeper-hit status has been fatally compromised by watered-down fight scenes and misguided family man dramatics. Three days of decent box office appears the best hope for this Relativity release, likely to continue EuropaCorp’s recent run of non-“Taken” commercial disappointments in the U.S. International prospects look only moderately livelier.

The setup plays as if someone (presumably Besson, who is credited with the story and co-wrote the script with “From Paris With Love” scribe Adi Hasak) decided to graft the central father/daughter relationship from “The Descendants” onto a Eurotrashy action framework. Superstar CIA field agent Ethan Renner (Costner) spends so much time on the job that he’s completely missed watching his daughter, Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld), blossom into a sophisticated teenager. After he’s diagnosed with a fatal illness, Ethan retires and resolves to spend more time with his family in Paris, offering to watch Zooey for a weekend while his estranged wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), is away. But retirement isn’t so easy for a man of Ethan’s skills, and he’s promptly recruited by the mysterious Vivi (Amber Heard), who needs his help in the hunt for a terrorist mastermind in exchange for experimental drugs that could give Ethan a second lease on life.

The conflict between the finesse Ethan demonstrates in his professional duties and the complete incompetence with which he approaches parenting is meant to be comedic, although the film doesn’t have the light touch of similar spy-family action-laffers like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “True Lies” or McG’s own “This Means War.” Instead, “3 Days to Kill” proves surprisingly po-faced about trying to build the bond between Ethan and Zooey, even in the midst of moments as goofy as Dad consoling his daughter on a bad hair day, teaching her to dance or buying her a purple bicycle just because that was her favorite color as a kid. The sentimental approach almost works, thanks to the best efforts of Costner and the naturally spunky Steinfeld, who may have made a respectable pair given better material to work with.

As it is, the lukewarm family dynamics sit awkwardly alongside equally underwhelming action sequences. Recent supporting turns in “Man of Steel” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” aside, Costner isn’t generally associated with the action genre — he’s more of a “Waterworld”/”Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” epic-adventure guy — and the rote heroics he undertakes here won’t do much to change that. On multiple occasions, the audience simply witnesses the aftermath of Ethan’s handiwork as repped by bodies lying motionless on the floor. The notable exceptions arrive in a brief but slickly executed one-on-one skirmish in a grocery store’s deli section (complete with resourceful use of the meat grinder and panini press) and a bracingly staged car chase in the middle of a Parisian neighborhood inspired by Claude Lelouch’s “Rendezvous” and John Frankenheimer’s “Ronin.”

That chase makes a lovely pairing with McG’s other standout sequence: a montage of Ethan riding the bike he bought for Zooey through the city streets and parking near the Eiffel Tower. It’s a sweet divertissement for the typically boisterous director, who overall reins in the bombastic giddiness of his “Charlie’s Angels” pictures and abandons the soulless spectacle of “Terminator: Salvation” to make an action film that’s downright restrained by his standards. Unfortunately, in this case the restraint reads as overly safe. “3 Days to Kill” is quite literally bloodless — the fight sequences in “Taken” packed a far more potent punch even with the same PG-13 rating — which seems like a missed opportunity. The juxtaposition of Ethan’s violent work and gentler paternal side might have added some desperately needed intrigue to the banal story.

The filmmakers certainly don’t find any of the intended mystery in Ethan’s fitful encounters with the femme-fatale-ish Vivi, a severely under-realized character who never makes any sense despite Heard’s arduous efforts to vamp it up. Nielsen’s thankless skeptical spouse role is even less significant, while Tomas Lemarquis and Richard Sammel bring nothing beyond menacing visages to their bland terrorist baddies. It’s a running gag that Ethan seeks parenting advice from just about anyone he encounters, which offers decent moments for character actors Eriq Ebouaney as the African paterfamilias in a family squatting in Ethan’s semi-abandoned apartment, and Marc Andreoni as a Middle Eastern limo driver linked to the villains.

Although the film’s tech package is reliably proficient, one would have hoped for more onscreen fireworks from the union of ultra-American McG and Costner with French mainstay Besson. Alas, this European vacation is a time-killer of the most mundane variety.

Film Review: ‘3 Days to Kill’

Reviewed at Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, Feb. 12, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 116 MIN.


(U.S.-France) A Relativity Media (in U.S.) release presented with EuropaCorp of a 3DTK and Relativity co-production and a Wonderland Sound and Vision production. Produced by Marc Libert, Ryan Kavanaugh. Executive producer, Tucker Tooley. Co-executive producers, Ron Burkle, Jason Colbeck.


Directed by McG. Screenplay, Luc Besson, Adi Hasak, based on a story by Besson. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Thierry Arbogast; editor, Audrey Simonaud; music, Guillaume Roussel; production designer, Sebastien Inizan; art director, Christophe Couzon; costume designer, Olivier Beriot; sound (SDDS/Dolby Digital/Datasat), Stephane Bucher, Frederic Dubois, Didier Lozahic; re-recording mixers, Mathieu Dallaporta, Didier Lozahic; visual effects supervisors, Yann de Cadoudal, Rodolphe Chabrier; visual effects, Digital Factory, MacGuff; stunt coordinator, Dominique Fouassier; line producer, Marie-Odile Bertot; assistant director/second unit director, Ludovic Bernard; casting, Swan Pham, Justine Baddeley, Kim Davis-Wagner.


Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Tomas Lemarquis, Richard Sammel, Marc Andreoni, Bruno Ricci, Jonas Bloquet, Eriq Ebouaney, Joakhim Sigue. (English, French dialogue)

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    China's Huanxi Media Picks Up 'Snowpiercer' TV Show From ITV Studios

    China’s Huanxi Media Group Limited has bought the exclusive broadcasting right in the mainland for the forthcoming sci-fi TV series “Snowpiercer” from ITV Studios Global Entertainment. The show is based on South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s film of the same name and is set to debut on TBS in the U.S. in the spring of [...]

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    'I Lost My Body' Director Jeremy Clapin On His Critics’ Week Breakout

    CANNES  — Jeremy Clapin’s feature debut “I Lost My Body” follows Naoufel, a young man who moves to France, falls in love and tries to create a new life.  Then in a parallel storyline, it follows Naoufel’s severed hand, which runs, jumps and rolls across Paris in an attempt to find the rest of its [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Expands Suit Against Agencies With New Fraud Allegations

    The Writers Guild of America has bulked up its lawsuit with additional fraud allegations against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. The WGA amended its suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court with the claim that CAA, WME, UTA and ICM partners have engaged “constructive fraud” by allegedly placing their own interests ahead of their clients [...]

  • 'Heroes Don't Die' Review: A Peculiar,

    Cannes Film Review: 'Heroes Don't Die'

    Just when you think modern cinema has exploited the found-footage conceit from every conceivable angle, along comes a tragicomic mockumentary tracing Bosnia’s recent war-ravaged history via the travails of a young French film crew getting to the root of a reincarnated identity crisis. Aude Léa Rapin’s first narrative feature “Heroes Don’t Die” is nothing if [...]

  • Mediapro, Complutense, NFTS Team On Screenwriting

    The Mediapro Group Launches Master’s Program at Madrid’s Complutense University

    Madrid-based production hub The Mediapro Studio has announced finalized details of an arrangement with Madrid’s Complutense University (UCM) and the National Film and Television School of London (NFTS) on a new Master’s program designed to develop new screenwriting talent. Mediapro general director Juan Ruiz de Gauna, UCM dean of information sciences Jorge Clemente and Irene [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content