Review: 3 Days to Kill

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A CIA agent, who only has a few months to live, chooses to spend his final days with his estranged family – but quickly finds himself roped into hunting a villainous arms dealer at the behest of a shady operative.

REVIEW: Perhaps Kevin Costner went method and actually made himself terminally ill in preparation for 3 DAYS TO KILL, which might explain why he looks so thoroughly miserable throughout the film. Surely the paycheck was more than sufficient, because if any gig screamed “paycheck job,” it’s this braindead slog. Then again, Costner’s sour demeanor may just be a natural reaction to realizing what a terrible mistake he’s made starring in this turkey, which comes from Luc Besson‘s derivative action movie factory and director McG, who won’t be released from Director Jail anytime soon.

Costner is Ethan Renner, a spy for the CIA who learns he’s dying of brain cancer, prompting him to travel to Paris and attempt a connection with his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) and ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen). But wouldn’t you know it, Paris also happens to be the location where an arms dealer called The Wolf (Richard Sammel) has set up shop and plans on selling… something to terrorists. Ethan once had a run-in with The Wolf and his vile henchman The Albino (you can tell they got really creative with the nicknames here), but has no interest in pursuing him further, aiming to stick with his family reunion, which will be tough enough considering he’s never been there for his daughter. (Has there ever been a father in one of these movies who has always been there for his kid?)

Of course, just when he thought he was out… Ethan is persuaded to hunt down The Wolf by a sexy operative for the Agency (Amber Heard, of course the least believable CIA operative ever) who tempts him with an experiential drug said to be able to cure his illness. Sure, there’s a side effect where he begins hallucinating, but that’s nothing a chug of vodka won’t cure. Seriously. So now Ethan must find time to do all that parenting he missed out on while sneaking away to shoot/abduct/torture bad guys and destroy half of Paris.

The plot is predictable and derivative even by Besson’s standards, which have gotten lower and lower over time. One can accept stretches in logic and occasional silliness in what’s supposed to be a dumb-fun action movie, but the writing here is so preposterous that it counts as an insult against the audience. Almost no effort has been given to make the situation suspenseful or engaging; the villains are no more than ciphers, barely developed, nor is their mission even bothered to be described. Often the film simply forgets they exist.

What interests Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak more is the father-daughter dynamic, which is completely predictable from the get-go. Will Zoey reject Ethan outright at first? You bet. Will he stumble a few times on his way toward proving he’s capable of being a caring, loving dad? Of course. Will she be completely oblivious to the fact that he’s not a “salesman,” as he claims? Yes, because she’s written as being fairly dumb. The plotting is so lazy it’s like TRUE LIES adapted by ABC Family.

When it’s not fumbling the drama and ignoring the action, 3 DAYS TO KILL frequently goes for comedy, a dreadful idea since Besson is superbly unfunny (see: THE FAMILY), as is McG (see, well, everything he’s done). For some unearthly reason, there’s a subplot about a family of African immigrants living in Ethan’s flat, which adds nothing and goes nowhere. Then there are several scenes where Ethan, while on the job torturing somebody, has to talk to his daughter on the phone at the same time! Hilarity. Yes, there are plenty of “Daddy’s working, sweetie” moments in the film, the same joke revived again and again.

But while I don’t expect much from Besson or McG (who can’t even handle the action astutely, let alone the drama or comedy), Costner is the biggest disappointment. Whether or not he’s trying too hard to play the tough loner is for him to know, but you couldn’t ask for a more lifeless performance. Just last month brought us Costner in a far better mood in JACK RYAN, in which he also played gruff and authoritative, but with considerable more personality. He couldn’t be less interested in 3 DAYS TO KILL, and while I can’t blame him, maybe he shouldn’t have taken the sorry job in the first place.

3 Days To Kill



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About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.