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Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill

I’m guessing that, in the course of your movie-watching career, you have found yourself in the position of choosing a film even though it sounds totally illogical, perhaps even stupid, but yet turns out to be well done and incredibly entertaining.  Such is the case with 3 Days to Kill. In some ways, it’s the typical action flick, but at the same time the atypical action flick.

In 3 Days to Kill, Kevin Costner plays a CIA assassin based in Paris. During an assignment, he falls ill and is hospitalized only to discover he has terminal cancer with maybe four months to live. He wants to escape his nihilistic existence so that he may try to spend some time with his estranged wife and now-teenage daughter who barely knows him. To complicate the plot, of which there is plenty, he is recruited by femme fatale operative Amber Heard to eliminate a nest of bad guys before they can perpetrate their usual bad guy stuff. In return, she has access to a new experimental drug that has the potential to send his cancer into remission.

Yes, I know that sounds like a seriously goofy recipe for an action film, but it’s held together by a whole bunch of different glues. First and foremost is Kevin Costner, who has graduated from roles of boyish charm, as in Silverado and Bull Durham, to this one of grizzled insouciance. You might say he has the Liam Neeson role, but with perhaps a little more depth.

Next, co-producer and co-screenwriter Luc Besson more than knows his way around this genre from his days as director of such films as the original La Femme Nikita and Leon. The script is peppered with peripheral characters that are not only useful in moving the plot along, but are interesting on their own.

The direction is by Joseph McGintyNichol under his “nom de screen” of McG. He is an award-winning director of music videos who segued into movies with his two feature reboots of the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise. McG has a good eye and makes it all look visually appealing.

The rest of the cast features HaileeSteinfeld, Oscar-nominated for the Coen Brothers' True Grit, as the teenage daughter, and the excellent Danish actress Connie Nielsen as her mother and Costner’s wife. They may have been separated for many years, but you can tell they are still in love. And those aforementioned miscellaneous characters are represented by a terrific bunch of charming or sinister performers who are more than window dressing.

And not least of all, I’m a sucker for espionage and action films with a European setting. 3 Days to Kill is shot mostly in and around Paris and takes full advantage of the local charm and beauty.

As to what makes this an atypical action flick is the PG-13 rating. In toning down the R-elements of such an outing, the language isn’t as harsh, the violence isn’t nearly as brutal, much of it suggested, and the usual blood and gore virtually non-existent. In many ways it reminded me of James Cameron’s True Lies, which was also a fun ride.

Now the cherry on this cake is that I have little patience for films that are seriously overlong and try to do too much from what they have to work with. With 3 Days to Kill, it was the first time in months that I have not checked the time even once during the course of the film, even though it was just three minutes shy of two hours. And this was even after suffering through thirty minutes of inane commercials and trailers for what seem to be awful films coming to my local AMC plex. And for me, that’s high praise for a film indeed. 3 Days to Kill may not be Oscar bait for next year, but it sure is entertaining. Most days, that’s a major accomplishment.

The PG-13 rated 3 Days to Kill is stopping all the bad guys at virtually every plex in the area.