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'3 Days to Kill' review: CIA guy mixes mirth, murder

Amber Heard and Kevin Costner in a scene

Amber Heard and Kevin Costner in a scene from "3 Days to Kill." Credit: AP / Julian Torres

Kevin Costner and the director McG are plunged into the madcap mayhem of Monsieur Luc Besson in "3 Days to Kill," a serio-comic thriller about mortality, murder for hire and fatherhood.

This being a Besson script and production, it's also about car chases and epic shootouts, torture played for sadistic laughs, Paris locations and Peugeot product placement.

Costner is Ethan, a veteran CIA agent diagnosed with cancer. But his new control agent, a vamp named ViVi and played to the stiletto-heeled hilt by Amber Heard, wants him to finish one last massacre -- taking out a nuclear arms dealer and his associates in the City of Light.

The carrot? She has an experimental drug that might give Ethan longer to live. And that could mean more time with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and the daughter he barely knows (Hailee Steinfeld), who live in Paris. The girl doesn't know what Dad does for a living, or that he's dying. And with lines like "You might want to take something for that cough. It's really annoying," she probably wouldn't care.

Ethan's clueless about how to deal with a teen, so he's always stopping the torture to ask one underworld guy (the funny Marc Andreoni) how to cope, what to do and how "to balance work and family."

Heard -- all lipstick and lingerie, long eyelashes and leatherwear -- has little to do here. Steinfeld's Zoey is a bit of a drama queen, but not a caricature of one. She is one transgression after another, which Ethan seems loath to punish and unable to rein in.

Besson co-wrote the script, and he works in shots at absentee parents, lazy French cops and a legal system that allows cute African squatters more rights to Ethan's apartment than he has. But that turns out to be a warm and fuzzy cul-de-sac, one of many in this movie, which veers from shocking shootouts to rank sentiment.

PLOT A dying CIA agent is out to nail a nuclear arms dealer and make amends with his estranged wife and daughter.

RATING PG-13 (violence, action, sensuality and language)

CAST Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen


BOTTOM LINE Bullets and jokes fly uneasily.



In "3 Days to Kill," Kevin Costner plays CIA contract killer Ethan Renner, a "cleaner," who learns he's dying of cancer. His new control agent (Amber Heard) bribes him with a serum that might prolong his life, providing he carry out one last series of hits in Paris, where his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and the teen daughter he barely knows (Hailee Steinfeld) live.

"I like Ethan's directness -- in his job, and how discombobulated he becomes trying to deal with the women in his life," Costner says. "We played those scenes fun, because he's struggling."

He likes the fact that this character hasn't a clue about women -- especially teenagers. "Welcome to the human race," Costner laughs. "If you know a lot about women, please write that book. For the rest of us. Give us a hand."

Costner, 59, shows every wrinkle, every gray hair in "3 Days." He may be "a national treasure," as his director, McG ("Charlie's Angels"), declares. But he's not shy about showing his age, in character and out of it.

Costner wanted to play a man wed to his job who has paid the price for that, a dying man who does what men sometimes do in that situation: Earn a lot of money doing these last few jobs, so he can leave his family something. If he can't leave them memories, he'll leave them money.


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