Home » Years » 2014 » 3 Days to Kill •••

3 Days to Kill •••

MV5BMzM0MjE0Nzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODA4ODE4MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
Director: McG
Screenplay: Adi Hasak, Luc Besson
Action/Crime/Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: February 21, 2014
Renner: Single, P-PP Moral, Pro (Classic Lone Hero)
Albino: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Henchman Villain)


reel-3 villain-2 h-logo-3

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, good things come in threes. The musketeers, the little pigs, the stooges, etc.

It seemed like I had three hours to kill watching 3 Days to Kill.

We meet Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner), a CIA assassin agent who is dying of cancer. He moves to Paris to spend his last few months near his ex-wife and teenage daughter, from whom he’s been estranged for five years. While in Paris, Renner is assigned the task of killing a man nicknamed “The Albino” (Tomas Lemarquis), who is plotting to unleash a smart bomb on the general public. Meanwhile, Renner discovers that his ex-wife and daughter want little to do with him.

To give Renner ample incentive to complete the job, Vivi, (Amber Heard) his diabolical boss lady, offers him an experimental serum that will cure him. It has strange side effects, however and leaves Renner incapacitated without warning. Back home, ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) is going on a business trip and needs Renner to watch over daughter Zoe (Hailee Steinfeld) for three days. Hilarity ensues when the CIA hit man must juggle the duties of daily spy work with fatherly responsibilities.

Greg, we all try to find a balance between our work lives and our personal lives. This struggle is the main recurring theme of 3 Days to Kill, with the added twist that the hero of the story is a CIA assassin on assignment who is dying of cancer. Renner tries to reconnect with his daughter while hunting his villainous prey, and the movie tries to be a bit too cute by including scenes where he is literally on the phone parenting his child while dodging bullets.

A curious yet appealing element of this movie centers on the family of squatters who take over his apartment. They are quirky and culturally different, and the elder among them ends up sharing his wisdom with Renner. This is a nice nod to the classic mentor figure in hero tales, a figure who is typically deviant and mysterious.  Another mentor character is Renner’s ex-wife Christine, who also imparts wisdom to Ethan about life’s priorities. She helps Renner, a long-time assassin, transform himself into a loving, pacifistic family man.

The film does a pretty good job of balancing action and humor. Unfortunately for me some of the scenes were a bit far-fetched. At one point Renner is at a party with his daughter who wanders off with a boy. Then an all-out gun fight ensues and somehow she is never the wiser. And there are the scenes where the snitch is in the trunk and Zoe is in the front seat and seems not to notice the sounds of a man banging around in the back. It’s all a bit far-fetched. If this were a comedy it would be funny but it’s a thriller so it’s just eye-rolling material.

Renner is pretty good hero material. He’s dedicated to his work and is trying to mend a strong inner hurt (that of being estranged from his daughter and having little time to reconcile). He’s rugged and charismatic. Despite the fact that he has to lie about what he does, he’s an honest guy. And he’s as reliable as he can be given that people are always out to murder him, which causes him to be late for father-daughter appointments every so often. And he ultimately reconciles with his daughter so he resolves that missing inner quality. Renner’s not a complicated hero but he does fit the mold of what we look for in a good hero.

I agree, Greg. And Costner deserves credit for delivering an understated performance that allows us to forgive (mostly) the ill-attempt of the movie to balance silly humor with life-threatening bullies and bullets.

But what of the villains? These villains have hackneyed nicknames like the wolf and the albino. Another stereotypical character is Ethan’s beautiful and rather villainous CIA boss Vivi, who is just as ruthless as the story’s Russian villains. She coerces Ethan to work for her by threatening to withhold treatment for his cancer, leading us to wonder (and perhaps Ethan to wonder, too) who exactly are the good guys here? All three of these villains are oversimplified yawners who are constructed to look menacing and pose danger. But in the end they are uninteresting.

I agree Scott. Vivi struck me as a sort of anti-villain because she is working for the “good guys” but is just as corrupt as  the “bad guys.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a hero and a villain. As Joseph Campbell once said, “A hero will do anything to get what he wants, at his own expense. Whereas a villain will do anything to get what he wants, at someone else’s expense.” And by that definition Vivi falls squarely into the category of villain.

3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining movie about a dying man’s attempt to juggle his work life and his personal life. Kevin Costner delivers a solid, sympathetic performance as man who is out to redeem himself both professionally and personally. The film features a pretty well-crafted hero’s journey with our hero’s descent into a dark world of cancer and assassins, a recovery of our hero’s missing humanity, and several redemptive acts of triumph at the end. This movie will not win any awards but it is endearing in its own simple way. I give it 3 Reels out of 5.

As mentioned above, the hero journey is solid in its arc and with its inclusion of several key allies, love interests, mentors, and villains. I hereby award Renner 3 Heroes out of 5.

The villains were disappointing and dragged the film down. Had the villains been interesting or endowed with some kind of depth, 3 Days to Kill might have been a very good movie. But we’re given simple cartoon-like characters who are almost laughable in their stereotypical minimalism.  I generously award this film 2 Villains out of 5.

Movie: reel-3Heroes: h-logo-3 Villains: villain-2

Scott I think we’re pretty well-aligned here. Any father with a teen-aged daughter will feel the pull of work versus family that Renner has to deal with. Most of us don’t have to literally fight to get home at the end of the day so seeing Renner take fatherhood to the absurd extreme made for light entertainment. I also award 3 out of 5 Reels for an entertaining thriller wrapped in a family conundrum.

The hero here is pretty basic and as you point out Costner plays the role casually, and that works for him. We’re satisfied with the resolution as he reunites with Zoe. So I give Renner 3 out of 5 Heroes.

So often we measure our heroes by the quality of their villains. The villains here were mostly offscreen and were mere shadows of characters. The real villain here was Renner’s ties to his work, which many men feel. Vivi is the physical manifestation of that conflict. But she’s a typical femme-fatale that we’ve seen before. The villains don’t give Renner much to play against and so I give them just 2 Villains out of 5.

Movie: reel-3 Heroes: h-logo-3 Villains:villain-2

1 Comment

  1. Kate says:

    Great insight into the real villain- when we are at odds in our values of work and family.
    Enjoy the reviews very much!

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