Casting: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard
The Indian Express rating: **
NORMAL folks would think twice accepting a syringe full of an experimental drug from a woman in skin-tight leather, high heels, red lips, crazy wigs, a flashy car and, most importantly, some incredulous association with the CIA. No such thought flits across Ethan’s (Costner) mind. Himself a retired CIA agent, he has presumably seen weirder things in life, even weirder than the aforementioned ‘Vivi (Heard)’.
You are willing to grant 3 Days to Kill that, given that director McG and writer-co-screenwriter Luc Besson have Charlies Angels, Terminator Salvation, Transporter, The Fifth Element and many other light-on-feet action films between them. Besson even managed a hit with Taken, a similar story as 3 Days to Kill about a retired CIA agent and his daughter, played by an equally scruffy, deadbeat Liam Neeson. However, this one fails to even rise to that level, for the action is too tired, the humour too forced, the relationship too cliched, an accompanying storyline too unbelievable (even compared to Vivi), and children just too many to have around guns.
Vivi first spots Ethan during an operation gone wrong in Serbia, in which blasts go around a suitcase with nuclear bombs. Never mind, what’s more troubling is the bad cough Ethan has — hardly ever the case of the flu in movies. Sure enough, he discovers he has “brain cancer, which has spread to the lungs”, with a couple of months to live. Ethan leaves the Agency and decides to spend that time making up to his estranged wife and the teenage daughter he barely knows.
Wife Christina (Nielsen) and daughter Zoey (Steinfeld) are not very welcoming, though the former melts on hearing about his medical condition. The film is about how Ethan wins Zoey over, while fighting the bad guys and, often, taking parenting and cooking tips from them. If only it was that alone, for there are few as winning as Costner in such thankless roles. However, Vivi keeps reappearing, seeking Ethan’s help for a reason that is not supposed to make sense, and claiming an association with the CIA that should have the Agency worried. In exchange, she offers Ethan the experimental drug that may or may not extend his life.
With little coherent thought intended, the film is neither about Ethan’s desperation or his love for Zoey, nor about the bad guys threatening him. That McG is capable is clear from the scene where Ethan teaches Zoey how to ride a bicycle, as she asks the questions she has always wanted to from her absentee father.
Rather, as Costner suffers though a lot else, including witnessing childbirth by a woman who is no more than a stranger, it’s Heard who may get the best career bump. If this is a celebration of absurdities, she is the one dressed for the party.