With middle-aged Kevin Costner brandishing a gun on the Blu-ray cover, 3 Days to Kill teases a knockoff of Liam Neeson’s recent success playing the part of a grizzled older action hero. Instead, this Parisian-set story from Luc Besson takes a passive turn to explore the impossible task of simultaneously juggling the life of a successful family man and CIA operative once the explosive opening act wraps. As with similar Besson projects of the past involving aging hit-men and their real-world struggles, such serious subject matter takes a backseat to amazingly improbable coincidences and black humor, resulting in a disjointed affair that stumbles to the ground as many times as Costner’s character does in the heat of confrontation.
Costner’s Ethan Renner discovers after a botched hotel mission in the opening act that he’s dying of a terminal cancer and has at most two-to-three months left to live. His life as a CIA operative has taken a toll on his relationship with his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), neither of whom he has bothered to see in over five years. With death knocking and the clock ticking, Ethan tries to reconnect with his estranged and quite troubled daughter, and leave his former life behind.
A secondary mission during the botched mission that Ethan knew nothing of sends fellow CIA operative Vivi (Amber Heard) to Paris and in need of Ethan’s skillset. Her bribe is hard to ignore: if he agrees to kill the mysterious “The Wolf” for her, whom he might have seen at the hotel, she will in turn give him an experimental drug that can prolong his life and time to spend with his daughter. To get to The Wolf, Ethan will have to go through “The Albino,” whom he wounded in the opening act.
Director McG (Terminator Salvation, Charlie’s Angels) transforms Vivi from an unassuming woman in her stateside introduction into a sexually charged caricature when reintroduced later on. Heard melts into a character more suited for Sin City, waltzing around in form-fitting dresses with a massive cigarette dangling from her mouth, and speeding around Paris in a sports car with reckless abandon. She clearly has fun and sizzles in the underdeveloped part with style and attitude, but Vivi sticks out like a sore thumb in the context of the film. Her lack of accomplishing anything other than boss Ethan around and look sexy doing it comes across as an absurd excuse for such a highly regarded CIA operative as established during her brief introduction.
McG tries to play up the side effects of the medicine Vivi offers, which renders Ethan into a useless crumpled mess, by having them kick in when it suits the story as opposed to when it makes sense. Not once, not twice, but three times Ethan slumps to the ground just as he’s about to face off with a major villain. It is established early on that Vodka will help overcome this side effect, yet Ethan finds no need to carry a flask around with him. Instead, Ethan and his oft-wounded foes end up slowly crawling across the ground at one another in a turtle version of a boss fight.
Ethan’s arc plays itself into an obvious and safe heartwarming conclusion and leaves the door cracked open for Vivi to enlist him for a future mission. A wiser direction would be a spin-off tale starring Vivi without the added baggage of a dysfunctional family detracting from the cool spy stuff, of which there isn’t hardly enough of.
Fox Home Entertainment has transferred the theatrical cut and five-minute longer extended cut of 3 Days to Kill to Blu-ray in 2.37:1 1080p video and the results are pretty spectacular. McG reveals during the bonus features that he used a digital camera for the first time in his career for this film, and the results speak for themselves between the sweeping vistas and narrow streets of Paris, and the colorful wigs and bright lipstick of Amber Heard as Vivi. Only when some obvious color tinkering is at work to achieve a cooler image does the incredible detail dissolve a little.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track handles the two big action set-pieces with intensity and bombast, squeezing the surround channels to life and letting the bullets fly. During the more prevalent quiet scenes there’s still great clarity in the audio and nothing whatsoever to find issue with.
At first glance the bonus features, all presented in HD, feel pretty skimpy, especially considering not a single one of them runs over 10 minutes in length. However, after watching them, about everything that needs to be said about the film is said, and all the major players chime in. A little less horn tooting of McG would have been welcome.
- The Making of 3 Days to Kill (9 mins) – This featurette digs in behind-the-scenes and comes up with some great looks at the making of the film.
- Covert Operation (5 mins) – A 21-year veteran of the CIA talks about his life, and it sounds a heck of a lot like Ethan’s.
- McG’s Method (4 mins) – Everyone gets to lavish praise upon their director.
- Theatrical Trailer
Luc Besson’s fingerprints are all over 3 Days to Kill as he rehashes many of the themes explored in his previous works with mixed results. A few less improbable encounters, saving Vivi for another movie altogether, and focusing on Ethan’s work as opposed to his daughter’s quest to party and have fun would have made for a far more engaging film. Paris does look great — as does Amber Heard — but otherwise Three Days to Kill is a technically sound film that stumbles more than it walks.
This 3 Days to Kill Blu-ray review was written using a copy provided by Fox Home Entertainment for the purposes of evaluation.
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