Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill

Three Days To Kill

Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner in “Three Days to Kill”

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

In 3 Days to Kill, Kevin Costner’s semi-retired CIA agent Ethan is forced into a Faustian bargain: if he agrees to go back into the field for one last mission, he’ll receive injections of an experimental drug that just might cure his cancer. However, the drug’s side effects act as a different kind of killer … every time Ethan’s about to shoot a bad guy, he passes out as he desperately tries to fire his gun. But like the hero in The Princess Bride, he’s not quite dead. He’s only mostly dead.

Rife with hackneyed formulas, repetitive scenarios and overblown spy language (“Kill or die,” “Find the Italian accountant who cooks the books for your friend The Albino”), 3 Days to Kill – directed by MG, written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak — wears more silly story elements than the film’s femme fatale dons wigs.

When the doctors tell him that he has approximately three months to live, Costner’s Ethan coughs and wheezes his way to Paris in the hopes of reconnecting with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld of 2010′s True Grit). No easy task, he has to juggle the role of penitent husband/father with secret agent man. Yet as he’s involved in a deathly chase after the above-referenced Albino and a ruthless terrorist called “The Wolf” (and no, it’s not Leonardo DiCaprio, though that might have added considerable sizzle), our hero is additionally stuck in a bungling comedy. Between the angry, sulky daughter phoning him during would-be murders, a Joe-Pesci-from-Lethal-Weapon-type limo driver who Ethan turns to for advice in handling teenage daughters (when he’s not stuffing him in the trunk and/or torturing him), and a lovable family of squatters who’ve invaded his apartment and can’t be lawfully evicted until spring, our hero straddles between American Dad! territory with Mission Impossible. Throwing in Amber Heard’s inexplicable dominatrix Vivi, we’re treated to a taste of Catwoman on the side.

Given director McG’s previous work in numerous commercials and music videos, perhaps his early experience explains why his attention to detail in a long form feature appears so scattered. His direction of Charlie’s Angels notwithstanding, the film’s repetitive nature is outright puzzling. Why shoot Ethan against the background of the Eiffel Tower time and again? Were there no other iconic Parisian landmarks available? Not a Notre Dame, a Louvre, a Moulin Rouge? In a high-octane car chase, four baddies pellet Ethan with substantive gunfire. Yet in an ensuing shot, their guns have poof! disappeared and, as Ethan charges at them, they huddle and scream like frightened children in a school bus.


(l to r) Kevin Costner, Connie Nielsen, Hailee Steinfeld in “3 Days to Kill”

Further, a particular scene in which Ethan teaches daughter Zoey how to ride a bike is intercut with her confronting him about his poor parenting skills. It works – until the scenario is repeated when the family is laughing and sharing a meal, intercut with a confrontation scene between husband and wife. And while Ethan instructing Zoey to cycle is slightly stereotypic but still delightful, that scene is diluted when it’s followed by him teaching her how to dance. We get it. Ethan wasn’t around when young Zoey needed a father, and therefore he’s making up for lost time. Swell. Now who’s going to make up for the audience’s lost time?

As weak as this movie may be, it’s a treat to see Costner in a leading role once again. It’s been awhile since we’ve been reminded of his easy charm, his onscreen honesty. While he’s done his best work in supporting roles over the last decade (i.e., The Company Men, The Upside of Anger), it’s good to see that he can still carry a film. With his starring role in the anticipated Draft Day, releasing in April – in which Costner returns to the sports film genre – hopefully he’ll have much more of a chance to shine.

Here, he’s ably supported by Ms. Steinfeld, who proves that her turn in True Grit was far from a one-time effort. Unfortunately, Nielsen as the judgmental wife and Heard as the sashaying über-spy are stuck in 2D caricature.

At the end of the day, well, let’s talk turkey, this movie didn’t need 3 days to kill. 2 hours was more than enough.


Rating on a scale of 5 spies who came in from the coma: 2

Release date: February 21, 2014
Directed by: McG
Screenplay by: Luc Besson & Adi Hasak
Based on a story by: Luc Besson
Cast: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 117 minutes


About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes ( Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.


  1. Susan Lehman says:

    Always right on target. If only films were as witty as the reviewer.

  2. Cathy says:

    Another terrific review, Kimberly. You may be sitll in the dark, but you’re my guiding light when it comes to film reviews. Thank you!

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