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3 Days to Kill' dead on arrival

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Formulaic action thriller fails to deliver

Hollywood groupthink tends to come in waves. Once it is decided that an idea is a good one ('good' referring to profitability rather than quality), all of the studios tend to introduce their own ever-so-slight variations on that singular idea.

A current wave that the studios are riding is that of the over-the-hill action hero; I like to call it the 'too old for this st' subgenre. This is when older fellows are dropped into the driver's seat of action vehicles; it's usually someone of the Stallone/Willis/Schwarzenegger ilk. However, Liam Neeson showed us that you can teach an old dog a very special set of skills.

And so we get '3 Days to Kill,' where Kevin Costner enters the game.

Ethan Renner (Costner, 'Man of Steel') is a CIA lifer who never quite made the big time, spending his career on lower-level assignments. He is engaged in a mission to capture or kill a man known only as 'The Albino' (Tomas Lemarquis, 'Snowpiercer') the main underling of a notorious arms dealer known by the equally cloak-and-daggery name The Wolf (Richard Sammel, 'Win Win'). 

Unfortunately, the mission goes pear-shaped, due in no small part to a suddenly-ailing Renner. When he wakes in the hospital, he learns he has a rare form of brain cancer and scant months left to live.

He decides to use his remaining time to try and reconnect with the family that he essentially abandoned for the job. He heads to Paris and meets up with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen, 'Nymphomaniac') and Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld, 'Ender's Game'), the daughter he barely knows. His wife begrudgingly lets him back in, but only on the condition that he give up the spy game for good.

However, the agency still wants the Wolf. Agent Vivi Delay (Amber Heard, 'Machete Kills') appears with an offer for Ethan an experimental drug treatment that might alleviate his cancer symptoms and extend his life. The only condition is that Ethan gets her the Wolf.

And so he is thrust back into the spy game, trying desperately to track down the elusive arms dealer while still looking for ways back into the lives of his wife and daughter. It's a delicate balancing act, but when it comes to the spy game, the scales inevitably tip.

'3 Days to Kill' brings very little to the table. While the action sequences are competently executed, the familial dynamic that is supposed to be the reason that we give a crap in the first place is poorly and incompletely drawn. Costner is fine in this role, although it feels like the sort of paint-by-numbers script that any of a dozen actors could have easily carried. That said, Costner's specific brand of nonplussed blandness fits the costume, so to speak. Heard is a cartoon character though I'm not sure she knows that - while Nielsen and Steinfeld have their undeniable talents wasted in roles that barely register two dimensions in terms of development, let alone three.

Director McG is known for his own style of good-humored action; we get occasional glimpses of that here, but only glimpses - surprising, since action icon Luc Besson co-wrote the screenplay (though considering the quality of Besson's last few offerings, he may have lost his touch). Combined with the generally lackluster performances, the meh direction and below-average screenplay make for a less than stellar cinematic experience.

'3 Days to Kill' does have its moments, but those moments are so few and far between that it's hard to stay engaged between them. Costner gives it his best, but his best is far from enough to save this one. Forget three days; you shouldn't bother killing even a couple of hours with this movie.

[1 out of 5]

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