Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is an American hitman in Serbia, where he has been sent by his government to take out a terrorist known as the Albino (Tómas Lemarquis) who is suspected of carrying a so-called dirty bomb to sell to the highest bidder. First, however, they must be sure he has the device on him, so Ethan deliberately brushes up against him in the hotel he's staying in and manages to capture an X-ray of his case, though it still has to be developed by his colleagues in the van outside. Alas, as this is happening the Albino realises he recognises one agent posing as a chambermaid and murders her; now all hell breaks loose as explosives are set off and Ethan is sent reeling. And as for his boss, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), she has one last task for him...
One last task since that buffeting from the blast has brought Ethan to the doctor, where he receives the bad news that he has a brain tumour which spread to his lungs, so basically he's going to die in three months, five if he's lucky. This sets off what was ostensibly an action flick into its real concern, the state of Ethan's relationship with his daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld), for this was penned by its producer Luc Besson, and just as with his other European-set actioners, he was casting a star around his own (middle) age to act out a family drama which happened to feature a bunch of folks getting shot and blown up. It was a curious way to play out a mid-life crisis, but here we were.
The movie that had truly kicked off this trend which others in Hollywood sought to follow was Taken, revitalising Liam Neeson's career with an admittedly absurd but highly indulgent (some would say indulgable) plot that saw the older geezer prove his worth by rescuing his daughter, thereby shooing away any doubts in the audience's mind that their dad was anything but a he-man capable to taking down the baddies and protecting you no matter what. It didn't quite pan out in the same manner here, but 3 Days to Kill was plainly cut from the same cloth as Ethan reconnects with the daughter he has not seen in five years, which may sound like a cliché but the way it is presented here is very much, erm, well it is presented as a cliché here too.
There were points when the grizzled hero reaches Paris where Zooey and his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) where it seemed as if Besson and his chosen director McG were keen to offer up a comedy, and that might have been a more fruitful journey, as Ethan finds squatters have moved into his apartment and are in the process of redecorating, or Zooey's boyfriend tries to curry favour in small talk with the gruff dad. But much to your dismay you may realise we were more or less intended to take this all too seriously, which tended to drag down a storyline that would have been better played with such resonances far more subtle and a lightness of touch better emphasised, though apparently beyond McG as his heavy hand was very evident for too much of the running time.
Costner was by this stage an underrated leading man so long after his heyday, and he brought undeniable star wattage to a tale that essentially depicted one ageing bloke negotiating the whims of the three women in his life, two family members and one boss. Heard turned up the ice queen quotient after being poured into a succession of slinky black outfits, though you'd wish she was given more personality in the role as for most of the time she was simply there to point Ethan in the direction of his latest mission. Nielsen contained even less quirk, providing the straightwoman to Costner's various troubles, though Steinfeld managed a hint of character when she was called on to do little more than petulantly lose her temper then ask for forgiveness in alternate scenes. Really these females were there to throw the hero into sharper relief as they were each defined by his foibles as his final job proves more extended than he anticipated thanks to Vivi's magic serum. The action, such as it was, was professional, but the plot lacked the depth it sought. Music by Guillaume Roussell.
American director whose flashy promo work for bands like Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray led him to helm 2000s big-screen update Charlie's Angels and its 2003 sequel, along with a blockbusting Terminator sequel. This Means War was an expensive flop, and 3 Days to Kill did not quite revitalise Kevin Costner's stardom. Also worked on the trashy TV show Fastlane. Real name Joseph McGinty Nichol.