Kevin Costner has been popping up lately, following his key role in the miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” with a supporting role in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and a lead role in the upcoming NFL drama “Draft Day.” And now he is the star power behind the silly but fun “3 Days to Kill.”
With a script by Luc Besson (“The Transporter,” “The Fifth Element”), co-written with Adi Hasak, viewers can expect a few sub-plot elements here and there to provide some special touches to a standard story.
In “3 Days to Kill,” we have Costner as Ethan Renner, an aging international spy — although he seems to do more killing than spying — in the twilight of his career. Having spent years putting his life on the line while making the world safer for us, his private life has become a shambles. He is estranged from his wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and teenage daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit”) and is hardly living an upper-class lifestyle.
As one of his missions unravels into a disaster, he also discovers he has health issues — of the worst kind. He has terminal cancer.
He travels to Paris with the intent of spending whatever time he has left reconciling with Christine and Zoey and having some semblance of family life.
Unfortunately, his employer, the CIA, is not quite done with him. An operative named Vivi Delay (yes, Vivi Delay), played by Amber Heard, is dispatched to Europe to lead a mission to kill The Wolf (Richard Sammel, the German soldier captured and then beaten to death with a baseball bat by Eli Roth’s Donny Donowitz in “Inglorious Basterds”), one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. Ethan is the agent assigned to do the dirty work.
Expecting Renner to be reluctant to accept this one final mission, Vivi offers him an incentive — a drug that has not been FDA endorsed but might slow down the cancer and extend his life if he accepts te job.
Aside from Costner’s scruffy but charismatic presence, “3 Days to Kill” adds some touches that add substance to the usual spy thriller. Among them is Ethan’s relationship with a family of squatters and a volatile interaction with a driver in a chauffeur business who can provide key information on The Wolf and his associates but who also as a father of twin teen daughters, can share some parental wisdom with Ethan.
There is the usual strained father-daughter relationship, allowing Steinfeld to be the pouty, embittered teen who calls her father “Ethan” instead of “Dad,” and the inevitable clumsy goof-ups by Ethan but eventual winning over of Zoey. Luckily, Steinfeld is a talented young actress who makes Zoey a sympathetic girl struggling to understand why Ethan was never around, and she and Costner work well together.
On the down side, Heard’s Vivi is unbelievable. In what should have been a typical role of a bureaucratic delegator, Vivi is a high-profile operative who appears to be living lavishly at taxpayers’ expense, speeding around Paris — and attracting a lot of attention — in an expensive sports car, and popping up occasionally to prod Ethan to finish his mission and inject him with the potential wonder drug.
The villains do not get much time to make the viewers hate them. The Wolf and one of his associates known as The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis) spend most of their screen time fleeing from Renner.
Ethan and The Wolf do have a stare-down before the usual shootout of lots of bullets flying but no hits on the intended targets.
But once viewers shrug off those shortcomings, they can find “3 Days to Kill” an entertaining if implausible action film.