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Kevin Costner's '3 Days to Kill' Is Miserable, and Amber Heard Is a Failure to Oversexed Mediocrity

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | February 21, 2014 | Comments ()


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The Kevin Costner comeback story felt really good for a hot minute after Zack Snyder tapped him for Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel, giving Hollywood permission to resurrect the Oscar-winning star of Waterworld and The Postman in the hopes that he could bring some of that Tin Cup and Bull Durham magic back to life. Look, studios! He’s got some blood left in him yet, let’s suck him dry!

While he was very good in Man of Steel — in fact, he provided the film with what little soul it had — Costner’s follow up films seem less like well-considered projects, and more like quick paycheck roles designed to squeeze out his last bit of relevance. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was a boring mess, and Three Days to Kill is even worse. Much, much worse.

It could have been a decent, generic throwaway thriller that might have been merely forgettable, but not deplorable, had McG the sense to lop off the pointless side plots that preoccupy entirely too much of the film’s running time.

Let me briefly outline the storylines smashed together in 3 Days to Kill.

1. Kevin Costner plays Ethan Renner, a trigger-happy, crusty lifer at the CIA who is in the last days of his career when a mission to kill The Wolf — whose crime is apparently blowing up a building indiscriminately — goes awry and The Wolf escapes.

2. Ethan has brain cancer, which has spread to his lungs, leaving him only 3-5 months left to live. He is forced into retirement by the CIA.

3. Ethan, with only months to live, decides to reconnect with his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and wife (Connie Nielsen) before he dies. This side plot mostly entails Ethan teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to ride a bike, keeping her out of the club scene, taking her to the swing set she used to love as a child, and being a chaperone at her prom, which is where the film’s climax takes place. Naturally.

4. Meanwhile, Ethan is hired by a CIA operative, Vivian (Amber Heard), to track down The Wolf — who only Ethan recognizes — and in exchange, she gives him an experimental shot that will treat his brain cancer and allow him to live longer. Vivian also attempts on a few occasions to sleep with Ethan for no apparent reason.

5. There’s also a guy who works for The Wolf that Ethan interrogates through torture, except when he’s showing up to the man’s house during dinner to solicit fatherly advice, which happens several times throughout the course of the movie.

6. Elsewhere, back at Ethan’s apartment in Paris, a large African family moved in and squatted while he was away on a mission. Because of some bizarre Parisian law, he’s forced to cohabitate with them until the pregnant daughter in that family has a baby, which Ethan eventually gets to witness. With tears in his eyes!

Granted, 3 Days to Kill never had a shot at being a decent movie, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as insufferable if McG had merely excised a couple of those plot threads, particularly that of Amber Heard’s Vivian. That role could’ve been given to a character actor and disposed of in two or three scenes, but it felt beefed up in order to give Heard more screentime, and lord knows, no one needs less screentime than Amber Heard. She’s hilariously awful, like a giant, sexy thigh bruise on an already mangled leg. In fact, in the opening scene of the movie, Vivian is a straight-laced CIA agent in a pantsuit taking orders from superiors we never see again, but for some reason for the entire rest of the movie, she’s an overplayed sexpot who tramps around in short skirts and attempts to seduce Ethan. She’s like Betty Boop with a gun and stilettos, and adds nothing to the film.

Even without Vivian, however, the movie’s a mess. This killer, The Wolf, has no backstory, no motivation, and no purpose. He and his lieutenant, The Albino, blow up a building in the opening sequence (why? No idea), and we don’t really see him again until near the end of the film, but no one ever explains why The Wolf is such a top priority to the CIA in the first place. He’s played by German actor Richard Sammel, and seems only to exist in order to strengthen the worldwide box office of the film, which is shot in Paris and stars three Americans, one of which — Ethan — likes to remind us that he’s from Pittsburgh.

In fact, 3 Days to Kill doesn’t feel like a film so much as a hodgepodge of elements designed to appeal to certain worldwide demographics. Costner and Nielsen bring in the over 50s, Amber Heard brings in the frat boys, the location brings in the European market, the African family appeals to that continent, and the villains bring in the anti-German contingent. There’s even a scene where an Italian being tortured by Ethan stops long enough to provide Ethan’s daughter with an Italian recipe for spaghetti sauce, so as to ensure that another European market is name-checked.

The irony, of course, is that it doesn’t matter how many markets are represented if the movie is garbage, and Three Days to Kill is precisely what you’d imagine when the worst of Luc Besson’s writing is combined with the dreadful directing of McG and run through a demographics chart. It’s a genuinely, categorically terrible movie that’s only redemption comes in the fact that it offers yet another cautionary tale for actors in how to more carefully choose roles in their second careers.





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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • There was nothing about this article (that originated from Dustin) that I didn't like.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Why do people call him McG? I mean, I know that's his "name" but for fucks sake, the world really shoulda put it's foot down on that one.

  • RilesSD

    They should also put their foot down and stop letting him direct movies. I'm baffled how he keeps getting work.

  • Ingrid Betancourt

    How the hell does a 16 year old not know how to ride a bike? Her mom, family member, friend, herself couldn't do it?

  • Lloyd_The_Bartender

    "and in exchange, she gives him an experimental shot that will treat his brain cancer and allow him to live longer."
    Are you fucking kidding me?
    Only a complete asshole would come up with a plot point like that....

  • BendinIntheWind

    The trailer pretty much had me sold as far as "I will probably go see this movie super drunk, or super hungover", but good god, the plot points mentioned here are SELLING it for me. This sounds fucking hilarious.

  • Walt Jr

    "like a giant, sexy thigh bruise on an already mangled leg". Dayum, Amber needs some ice for that burn.

  • I want to see one of those run-off battles of the worst movies of early 2014. Maybe right before summer blockbuster season begins, to remind us that the big-budget, absurd fare we're about to be served is at least not the turds they tried to foist on us in the early months.

  • RilesSD

    6. LOL, what !?!

  • L.O.V.E.

    hailie steinfeld needs to fire her agent STAT! she is much too young and talented to let the Costner stink get on her at this point in her career.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Hollywood let Costner out of his time capsule and now we're all fucked. its just a shatnado of sports themed rom coms, rom com sports movies, over budget/underwhelming action movies, and suspect historical docu-dramas from here to South Dakota.

  • Martin Holterman

    Re: Squatting: Under European Human Rights Law it is almost impossible to evict squatters who don't want to leave, especially when there are children involved.

  • Ingrid Betancourt

    I'm assuming the large African family with the pregnant girl who are squatting, are the only black people in the entire movie.

  • meadowdancer

    Wow so it's just the Lego movie tonight for me then. Everything else looks awful. I have already died laughing about the A Winter's Tale, I have no urge to see Alex doucebag Pettyfar "act" in Endless Love and now this shitshow has erupted. Poor Budget Johannasen (Amber Heard) trying so hard to be an actress. I really wish she stop since I have seen her in nothing which has impressed me at all.

    Kevin Costner please get off of the Al Pacino career path and stop doing shit-tastic movies. I didn't even stop loving you after The Postman and Water World. You were awesome in Open Range and Hatfield and McCoys, but if you are going to keep starring in crap like this I am done.

  • It's hard to believe that the details that you've provided have lowered the already oil-well low expectations I had for this bonfire of Mehhh.
    Although I must say that I try to avoid speculating the reasons why an actor would take a role. There's so many factors.
    The script they agree to is rarely the same script as the finished film.
    They have no assurance that the producers, director, cinematographer, or other actors that will be added, have any clue what the fuck they're doing. Acting is a passion-driven art. Some people just love the act of filming a movie. And lastly, it's what they get paid to do. Far be it for me to cast aspersions as to their choice in "jobs". I can't blame an actor for accepting a million bucks to do a shit movie...even if they know it's a shit movie from the beginning. The things I would do for a million dollars would make John Waters puke.

  • vic

    Jesus, did ANY good movies come out this month?!

  • TK

    The LEGO movie was pretty much a rose growing out of a shit swamp.

  • gutpunchprod

    You dismiss Kevin Costner at your peril. As for Heard, I think she can be good, she has the ability to be good in her, when she relaxes and has fun like in 'Drive Angry,' but, yeah, this looks horrendous.

  • Repo

    Didn't he have another baseball movie coming out? So there's a bit of hope left?

  • Tracer Bullet

    Football. He's apparently the GM for the Browns (possibly true in real life, all things considered) and he's tasked with making the #1 overall pick. I hope he picks the movie equivalent of JaMarcus Russell

  • L.O.V.E.

    I think he just picked the movie equivalent of JaMarcus Russell. It's called "3 Days to Kill"

  • meadowdancer

    I don't think that is out yet. It looks Oscar baity too.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    You ever look at an actress and think, if she'd maybe been 15 minutes late to an audition, maybe missed a phone call, or maybe didn't meet the right person career-wise, then she'd definitely be a porn star? Amber Heard.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    And therein lies the thin line between dating Johnny Depp and being locked in a closet by Charlie Sheen.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Well, that and ... lack of a gag reflex, I suppose.

  • meadowdancer

    LMAO. Sad but true.

  • Pete Arado

    Costner should just stick with the Western genre - Open Range and Hatfields & McCoys were both awesome, and he plays those character types very well.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Dances with Wolves and The Postman would like to know what the fuck you're talking about.

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