If you love The Professional as much as I do, then you know that Luc Besson is your go-to guy when it comes to movies about cleaners. 3 Days to Kill gets off to an overly complicated start, but quickly comes back to earth with an essentially simple plot. After learning he is gravely ill, CIA operative Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is issued a paltry pension and left with only a month or two to live. Ethan’s work has distanced him from his wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and now he only has a limited amount of time to reconnect and maximize the inheritance he can give them.
When Vivi Delay (Amber Heard) saunters into Ethan’s life, offering huge paychecks and an experimental drug that could save his life, he has little to lose. All he has to do is complete a series of hits within a few days and he’s got it made. He can leave his wife and daughter with a comfortable nest egg, and there’s always the slim possibility that the drug will actually work. The only catch is that the hits are scheduled in quick succession and if Ethan’s heart rate becomes elevated, the drug will act as a hallucinogen. Unsurprisingly, the process of chasing, scuffling with, and taking out targets tends to rile a person up, so every once in awhile, the world goes all wobbly on Ethan. Amusingly, trying to keep up with his temperamental teenage daughter often evokes the same sort of pulse- pounding anxiety.
Though the hit sequences are action-packed and well done, the movie seems to lose momentum whenever the plot accelerates. The scenes with Ethan’s family are sweet and resonant, even as he tries to win over a cynical teen and a skeptical wife. Costner is endearing as a befuddled father, and his grizzled appearance and smoker’s voice make it clear that domestic affairs are unfamiliar to him. Watching a CIA cleaner tenderly but awkwardly try to reestablish a life with his family feels like its own movie, and a good one at that. But when it comes to bad guys and the business with Vivi Delay, it feels as though we’ve flipped the channel and stumbled upon some other story rife with explosions, chases, murder, and intrigue. Oh, and it seems like espionage always gets mentioned in plot-heavy movies I don’t understand, so there’s probably some of that going on as well.
On some level it makes sense that Ethan’s two worlds are as disparate and unconnected for the viewer as they are for him, but they create a bit of a bumpy viewing experience. The Professional works because character and plot development are fused seamlessly. Three Days to Kill has its charms and is certainly entertaining, but you can definitely see the stitches holding the pieces together.
Special features include theatrical and extended cuts of the movie, a making-of featurette, a profile of director McG, an interview with a former CIA agent, and the original theatrical trailer.