Three Days to Kill

By on February 22, 2014
three days

I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly high-spirited going into “Three Days to Kill”- the numbness of early year movie desolation can do that to you, especially if what few limited joys that seemed to be on the horizon were also pretty meh. (Looking at you “Monuments Men”…) Kevin Costner movies can be pretty hit or miss, and I’ve always found it hard to take much of anything director McG does seriously. I mean, his name is freaking McG, for God’s sake. It sounds like what a marketing expert trying to reach the younger demo for a fast food client might concoct in a lab somewhere. Are we really going to come to the time in which we hear the words, “And the Oscar goes to…McG!” If so, then kill me now.

That said, Costner gets one right here and again nowadays, at least post the glory years of the likes of “Dances with Wolves”, “The Untouchables,” and “JFK”- classics all. “Swing Vote” was fairly underrated, and I genuinely loved “The Upside of Anger.” And I will begrudgingly admit to liking “Charlie’s Angels,” though I’m not sure how much that has to do with McG, really, save having the good sense to cast Sam Rockwell as the villain. I draw the line at the sequel, though, and not much else he’s done since has been my cup of tea.

So, let’s be honest. The real reason I went to see this is that it was the least ridiculous thing opening this weekend, and by that I mean, the only other thing opening was “Pompeii” and I have my limits as a critic. At least McG wasn’t trying to bilk me for a few more bucks with cheesy 3D CGI effects. What you see is what you get with “Three Days to Kill,” and it was about what I expected, more or less, with a few moderately interesting spins on the usual movies of this type.

It revolves around a Secret Service agent given a limited amount of time to live who takes on one last gig, which gets all kinds of botched, albeit not entirely for lack of trying on his part. Left hung out to dry, hospital-wise, he’s told to get his affairs in order because it ain’t looking good for the Cos. Then the CIA gives him one last kernel of hope: an experimental drug that could save his life, if he finishes the job he didn’t complete by taking out the key players that were the target in the first place. So, sort of like “DOA” crossed with, I don’t know, “Escape from New York” or something, only not as good as either.

Amber Heard- courtesy of

The main sources of hope for me here were up-and-coming Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld, so good in “True Grit” and hottie Amber Heard, who I have an undying affection for, despite a dearth of quality roles on her resume, though not for a lack of trying on her part, to be sure. I’m not even sure I can name another actress I like to the extent I do Heard, despite never having been in anything approaching a hit to save her life. One could make a case for my love of Amanda Seyfried and Sarah Michelle Gellar, but they’ve actually landed some hits here and there. Amber, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s often been the best thing in, shall we say, questionable, career choices like “Drive Angry” and “Paranoia.” And I legitimately liked “Machete Kills” and her role in it and the same goes double for her go-for-broke turn in the underrated “The Informers,” and her titular role in “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” which I saw on import long before it slouched into a limited release last year into theaters some seven years after it was actually filmed.

The girl just can’t catch a break, unless you count the whole Johnny Depp thing, and given her leanings, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the longevity of that particular pairing, and I don’t mean because of the sizable age difference. Heard is fine in “Three Days to Kill.” She’s sexy and tough, just what the role calls for. She delivers the goods in everything I see her in, she just has the worst luck in picking movies worthy of her. It happens.

Steinfeld has fared a bit better in her choices, obviously. She’s fantastic in “True Grit” and fully deserved that Oscar nod. I thought “Ender’s Game” was pretty underrated, and unfairly thrown under the bus because of the author’s wonky belief system. I haven’t yet seen her turn in “Romeo & Juliet,” but I’m sure she was fine. She’s definitely solid here, and nothing less than believable as Costner’s estranged daughter, who begrudgingly lets him in after a long absence, not knowing of his impending doom by his own request.

More than anything, I loved the father-daughter dynamic on display here. The film has a great sense of wry humor about itself, even if the style is a bit lax on the whole. I liked that “Kill” comes off a bit like a 70’s flick, with its mostly retro soundtrack and gritty-looking cinematography. And I loved the way Costner is so lost as a parent that he has to ask the very gangsters he’s terrorizing for relevant info to help, at one point even showing up and having dinner at the home of a guy he beat and stuffed in his trunk earlier, just so he can quiz his daughters about how to handle his own.

All of that stuff is great, and the action is reasonably well done. You’re not gonna hate yourself for watching this one, but you’re not going to be raving to your friends, either. If you like Costner, it’s one of his better recent efforts. If you like Heard or Steinfeld, you’ll be glad you went, even while you hope that better things are ahead for both. And if you like McG…well, I can’t help you there, but I suppose you’ll like it well enough.

So, in closing…I’m gonna go ahead and give this one a C+, even though some might rate it higher and some might rate it lower, depending on their tolerance for the aforementioned people. But, you know, it’s nothing to worry yourself over. It is what it is, and that will have to do until the good stuff hopefully starts rolling in March with offerings from Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Lars Von Trier and, um, the Muppets? Maybe?

If all else fails, we can turn to another hit-or-miss girl I love: Kristen Bell, and the “Veronica Mars” movie. There’s got to be an above average movie in there somewhere, right? Until then, for better or worse, we’ve got “Three Days to Kill.”

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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