Two hours to kill

Fairly tedious take on the action-movie formula

Starring: Smoldering Leading Man.

Starring: Smoldering Leading Man.

3 Days to Kill Starring Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard and Connie Nielson. Directed by McG. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

The latest eruption from the Luc Besson school of action-movie piffle—3 Days to Kill—feels like an imitation of the sort of movie that’s “inspired by” a video game which itself was based on a porno comic book/graphic novel and then grafted onto a jokey Kevin Costner project seemingly designed to tweak the formula employed in Liam Neeson’s Taken movies.

Besson started out rather impressively as a writer-director (Le Dernier Combat, Subway, The Big Blue, La Femme Nikita) in the 1980s, but while he’s directed another 11 features in the 20-plus years since, he’s been much busier as a writer (55 credits overall) and producer (117 so far). Quantity seems to have overtaken quality in nearly every respect.

Here, he turns the direction over to the TV-oriented producer/director known as McG (Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall, Charlie’s Angels), who keeps the assembly line moving along efficiently and blithely even as the screenplay (by Besson and Adi Hasak) stumbles and lurches through the usual improbabilities. Meanwhile, it’s also a Kevin Costner picture, with the star less concerned with a coherent characterization than with doing something like demo-reel star-turns for future casting directors—violent hero, savvy veteran, cool dad, wounded warrior, lovable divorcee, multipurpose authority figure, blithely sadistic prankster, etc.

Besson’s basic story premise has aging CIA assassin Ethan Renner (Costner) finding himself fatally ill and longing to reconnect with the teenage daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), whom he’s neglected, and maybe with his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen), too. An absurdly attractive CIA operative named Vivi (Amber Heard) offers him a possible life-saving drug, but only if he will track down and kill a couple of supervillains with comic-fantasy monikers: The Wolf (Richard Sammel) and The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis).

The preposterousness of it all seems more or less deliberate. This, after all, is a movie that jams gonzo Asian-style shootouts up against the sitcom antics of its father-daughter scenes while assuming a nonchalance that neither winks nor blinks. The battle-weary Renner/Costner, who periodically coughs up blood, kills and tortures with skill and zest while on the path to peaceable domestic bliss. Scenes of torture inflicted upon a Turk (Marc Andréoni) and an Italian (Bruno Ricci), both portrayed as farcical buffoons, play out as roughhouse slapstick.

In the end, rampant facetiousness may be all that 3 Days to Kill has going for it. Much of it glimmers, dimly, somewhere between half-baked parody and retrograde entertainment of an implausibly exuberant sort. Besides, the title amounts to fair warning: This is a mildly energetic time killer (117 minutes, to be exact), and little else.