Getting older has been good for Kevin Costner. As the one-time Robin Hood's face has grown more creased and weathered with the passage of years, it's allowed him to leave behind some of the trappings of superstardom that first propelled and then constrained him during the '80s and '90s, leading him to the much more fruitful and fulfilling character parts that await all leading men eventually. During the past nine months we've seen Costner fully leverage the audience's fondness for and familiarity with him to effectively play surrogate father to two iconic heroes in two key supporting roles.
For his latest starring turn, the McG-directed 3 Days to Kill, Costner reinvents himself yet again, amping up the ass-kickery as a world weary, no-nonsense CIA assassin and clearly tearing a page out of the "Liam Neeson Playbook For Late-Career Reinvention" (produced by Luc Besson, no less). However, while the original Taken gave Neeson a compelling character to play and dropped him into the middle of a taut, to-the-point storyline, 3 Days to Kill does its star no favors with a muddled, often-meandering narrative (story by Besson) that goes in too many directions, and far too often thinks it's more clever than it is.
After a near-miss encounter with a Russian baddie called "The Albino" leaves him incapacitated, Costner's Ethan Renner learns that he has terminal cancer, with the most optimistic prognosis giving him less than six months. Returning to his home in Paris to try and mend fences with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and teenaged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), Renner is roped back into service by CIA handler Vivi (Amber Heard, who seemingly wandered onto the set playing the exact same character from last summer's Machete Kills) with the promise of a miracle cure that may extend his lifespan (or it may just give him dizzying headaches at the most inconvenient-to-the-plot instances).
From there, Renner is caught in a series of Three's Company-style escapades: He has to track down the Albino (and his even more sinister boss, the Wolf) and still make time for the family (all the while concealing the fact that he's back on the job). Oh, there's also a family of African squatters living in his apartment. Hmm, I wonder if he'll end up forming a familial bond with them. As should be clear by now, the film bounces so haphazardly from "hardcore" to "heart-tugging" to "hilarious!" that it's impossible to get a baseline on how we're supposed to react. Just when we think we're watching a hard-edged, straight-ahead thriller in the Taken mold, it takes a sudden, jarring turn into Gross Pointe Blank territory.
Although McG (who I've yet to forgive for his disastrous stewardship of the Terminator franchise five years ago) proves quite adept at pulling off the many fistfights, gunfights, and car chases the story calls for (a marked improvement from his unfortunate Charlie's Angels films), he doesn't prove quite as skillful at weaving in the interpersonal stuff, which mostly falls flat. Giving the proceedings far more credibility than they really deserve is Costner, effortlessly cool, and clearly having fun with his new action hero configuration. Over the years, I've seen Kevin Costner be pretty good in fairly mediocre movies, and fairly mediocre in pretty good movies. 3 Days to Kill is the former. C-
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