Spy dad wears too many hats

ACTION MAN: 3 Days To Kill, which stars Costner as a terminally ill spy on his final mission, attempts to be three different films at the same time.


    Mar 06, 2014

    Spy dad wears too many hats

    3 DAYS TO KILL (PG13)

    Action/116 minutes/Opens today

    Rating: 2/5

    The story:

    Following a botched operation to capture The Albino (Tomas Lemarquis), the lieutenant of a notorious arms dealer called The Wolf (Richard Sammel), over-the-hill American spook Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) discovers he is dying from brain cancer and has only a few months to live.

    He returns to his home city, Paris, to spend his final days with his former wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen) and estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), from whom he's kept his job a secret.

    Soon after, a mysterious Central Intelligence Agency handler named Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) offers him an experimental drug that will give him a new lease of life, in exchange for one last assignment: stopping The Albino and The Wolf for good.

    AFTER starring in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as the titular spy's mentor, Kevin Costner, 59, must've figured he's ready to dance with The Wolf.

    After all, his peers - Liam Neeson, 61, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 66, and Sylvester Stallone, 67 - are enjoying an autumnal career resurgence playing geriatric badasses. Why can't he be a silver-haired superhero too?

    Alas, Costner picked the wrong teammates for this mission: director McG, and writers Luc Besson and Adi Hasak.

    On paper, they might seem like good choices. McG did the corny-but-fun Charlie's Angels and its sequel, as well as This Means War, another espionage comedy-thriller about secret identities. Besson and Hasak last teamed up on From Paris With Love, which also had American operatives blowing up half the City of Lights.

    Unfortunately, 3 Days To Kill attempts to be three different films at the same time.

    It tries to be an action flick, but other than a white-knuckle car chase along Paris' boulevards and an inspired supermarket bout - in which a sandwich press is used as an improvised weapon - the setpieces are dull and derivative. The villains are one-dimensional and hardly do anything other than run away from Ethan.

    The film also wants to be a family drama, but the father-daughter relationship development is hackneyed and mawkish. In one scene, for example, Ethan rescues Zoey from being gang raped. In the next, he teaches her how to ride a bike, to the applause of onlookers.

    Hailee Steinfeld is obnoxious as the stereotypical rebellious, ungrateful teenage daughter, and Connie Nielsen's character conveniently vanishes for two thirds of the movie to leave Costner's wannabe father figure in charge.

    McG said in a featurette that he's a fan of "gallows humour". But, as a comedy, the film fails, too.

    Most of the gags involve Ethan mistreating minorities, like torturing a Middle Easterner by waxing his armpits and asking an Italian about the recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce at gunpoint. Yes, these scenes make more sense in context.

    Amber Heard tries to inject some fun into the proceedings - quite literally, in fact, through her femme fatale's hallucinogenic wonder cure, administered via a gigantic horse syringe.

    Her cheeky, dominatrix-like strumpet, who drives like a madman and smokes like a chimney, is the most interesting character. To my disappointment, she appears in too few scenes, and I wondered why she bothered recruiting Ethan when she is just as competent.

    To his credit, though, Costner's debonair spy does look the part, dressed in a snazzy bomber jacket and scarf, with a five o'clock shadow that can sand wood.

    Sadly, this secret agent lacks agency. Even when he's not struggling to juggle the demands of the three women in his life (and a family of African squatters in his home, in yet another unnecessary subplot), he gets robbed of his action-hero abilities by his debilitating disease, which strikes in the form of blackouts at the most inopportune times - like, say, when he's about to take down a bad guy.

    If you've got two hours to kill, watching 3 Days To Kill wouldn't be a bad way to spend them. Just be aware that Costner's adventure is a lot like his character: It tries to be many things at once, but doesn't succeed.