By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If only Ethan Renner were as skilled at handling family business as he is at the killing business.
But, oh, the life of a CIA agent!
Three Days to Kill is a shallow action thriller with an uneasy mix of brutal fight sequences and sentimental family-reunion scenes.
Kevin Costner stars as Ethan Renner, an agent who has long since given up trying to juggle family and work. Once he determined that it was impossible, he gave up trying. Eventually he left his wife and daughter, for which they still resent him bitterly.
Then he finds out that he has a terminal disease and only months to live.
He is offered an experimental drug that could save his life by a mysterious operative (who seems to be from another planet) who keeps turning up, played by Amber Heard, and with whom he has a hellish relationship.
But in exchange for this medical help, he must agree to that overused narrative convenience: ONE LAST MISSION. He has been assigned to hunt down a ruthless terrorist while looking after his daughter (by himself, because his wife is out of town) for the first time in a decade.
What Renner wants at this stage of his life, as he nears retirement, is more of an active relationship with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and teenage daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), whom he’s more or less protected over the years by keeping his distance.
But that distance has robbed him of a relationship with his child that he obviously wishes he had. With his wife as well.
His current problem is that the medicine he’s taking causes hallucinations at critical times that do not exactly make his work any easier, to say the least.
The one-final-mission thrust –- which is so tired, it should be temporarily banned from screenplays –- gives the film a been-there-done-that weariness early on that it only occasionally rises above.
The director, McG (This Means War, Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall, Charlie’s Angels) –- whose real name is Joseph McGinty Nichol — with his pause-giving résumé, works from a script by Luc Besson (who co-wrote Taken, which this resembles in outline) and Adi Hasak, based on a story by Besson.
McG takes an almost sadistic delight in the fisticuffs and gunplay. The film and its makers seen enamored of the violence that’s never more than a moment or two away. Which is why the film registers as a glorified shoot-em-up, punctuated by equally obligatory incendiary explosions.
Costner, who handles the fight scenes quite well, is in the midst of what certainly feels like a second-act comeback that aspires to but falls short of what might be called the Matthew McConaughey maneuver (which, in the latter’s case, involves quality projects that are artistically embraced).
But it can be said that Costner’s star is back in play. This lead role comes on the heels of a couple of effective supporting performances in Man of Steel and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
That’s because Costner’s track record travels with him: this is, after all, the star of Dances with Wolves, JFK, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, The Bodyguard, Field of Dreams, just to name a few. And his comfort and presence in the lead role remains obvious and effective. Expect to see a lot of him as he’s got a number of high-profile films in the can — he will have been in five in 2014 alone.
But that’s later. For now, we’ll assassinate 2 stars out of 4. Three Days to Kill offers a daze of kills to those with two hours to kill.