Kevin Costner is a CIA assassin with cancer in '3 Days to Kill.' (Relativity Media)
Part “Crank,” part “Taken,” part “Father Knows Best” and part Looney Tunes, “3 Days to Kill” should come off as stretched in too many dumb directions.
But somehow the thing works, or at least works as well as any thoroughly absurd action-comedy February release has a right to. Yes, the climactic showdown at the film’s end relies on ridiculous coincidence, and the chief bad guys are named the Albino and the Wolf, but this is a movie that embraces its silliness with pride.
And even though previews have made “3 Days” look like an earnest shoot ’em up thriller — something it certainly isn’t — its comic overtones should come as no big surprise. It is, after all, directed by McG, he of the over-the-top “Charlie’s Angels” and “This Means War,” and the story was written by the near painfully prolific action auteur Luc Besson (“Taken,” “The Transporter,” “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element”). This was a marriage made for cheeky mayhem.
And cheeky mayhem is what we get. Kevin Costner dryly plays Ethan Renner, a grizzled, froggy-voiced CIA assassin who, after shooting about a dozen people in the film’s opening gala — bodies fly everywhere in this film — finds out he has cancer and only a few months to live.
So he flies off to his long-abandoned home in Paris, hoping to reconnect with his teen daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) and former wife Christine (Connie Nielsen). When he reaches his own apartment, though, he finds a friendly extended family of Africans have moved in as squatters and can’t be evicted. Oh, well, he settles for getting his bedroom back.
Zoey turns out to not be all that excited when she’s reunited with Ethan, and the film is drifting toward comic reconciliation land when suddenly the mysterious and glamorous super-agent Vivi (Amber Heard) shows up with a deal Ethan can’t refuse. If he’ll hunt down the aforementioned Albino and Wolf and kill them, she’ll give him the miracle cure for cancer that always shows up in movies.
Vivi — she may as well have been a cartoon — is the key tone shift that lets you know nothing in this film is going to be too serious. And that certainly proves true as Ethan goes about his bloody business with constant interruptions from his teenage daughter augmented by hallucinations and sickness caused by the miracle cure.
Torture sessions turn out to be opportunities for male bonding, Zoey ends up having typical boy trouble, there’s the absolute requisite car chase through the streets of Paris, and we all know Christine will ultimately succumb to her former husband’s charms. He’s Kevin Costner, for heaven’s sake.
Yes, he is, even if he does have a froggy voice, and it’s Costner’s droll sense of self-awareness that makes the movie work. He’s sharing a joke — a joke of a movie, really — with the audience, there’s none of that Liam Neeson this-really-matters intensity.
And it doesn’t, so just sit back and enjoy. “3 Days to Kill” is big dumb fun anchored by a good actor’s refusal to take himself too seriously.
'3 Days to Kill'
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Running time: 113 minutes