Movie Break: Three Days to Kill

Last night, I watched the recent Kevin Costner flick, Three Days to Kill. It’s the story of a CIA lifer with a broken family who may be dying of cancer, but can earn a chance to try an experimental cure for the proverbial one last job.

I’ve never been a Costner hater, and in fact, I’ve enjoyed him in a number of roles over the years, though he does bring a solidly predictable Costner vibe to most every character he plays. I guess that’s what motivated me to write a post on this movie. It’s not great by any means, and I flat didn’t like a few of aspects of it — but I really enjoyed Costner’s world-weary, worn-out spy. Early in the movie, his diagnosis is delivered matter-of-factly, punctuated flatly with, “You should get your affairs in order. The CIA thanks you for your service.” Now that he’s out of time, he realizes how much he’s lost being away from his wife and daughter doing awful work for an organization that is ready to move on, and his gruff Pittsburgh persona is endearing as he tries to relate to his family again.

Objections? The movie is an oddall mix of violence, humor, and emotion, and it certainly stretches credulity that the perpetually coughing assassin could shift gears from sickbed to superman and back and still be virtually unstoppable. The agent in  charge of this final job (three days to find and eliminate a terrorist and his henchmen in Paris, hence the title) is a young woman who inexplicably goes from a somewhat bookish professional in the opening scene to a bleach-blonde (and later raven-haired), chain-smoking (that’s just mean, given Costner’s condition) femme fatale, raising questions about her allegiances, motivations, and the contents of the mystery drug she’s giving him as a possible cure. The drug accelerates his heart rate (bad in his line of work) and causes mild hallucinations (worse) — but thankfully, alcohol will take the edge off (keeps getting better). To make things weirder, the gal insists upon dressing provocatively and meeting him in strangely lit rooms where dancers gyrate and smoke swirls…the better to provoke hallucinations and suspicions, I guess. His daughter’s boyfriend, too, is called into question, but in several cases, these were just red herrings. (The actual plot twist did take me by surprise, however — not so the reviewer on Roger Ebert’s site, but I tend to shut down my analytics until after the popcorn-muncher is over.) 

It’s the family scenes, plus a great opening gunfight, an intense melee in a deli, and an ingenious car-jacking, that make this movie worth seeing. In retrospect, it reminds me a bit of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven — a formerly icy killer who just wants to be left alone with his family and live up to his wife’s expectations in an environment that brings out the worst of what he’s best at. (It’s interesting that so many action movies these days involve secret agents who want to be left alone: the Bourne movies, the Taken movies, even the most recent Bond movies have this sense of world-weariness…wonder what this says about our mentality these days?)
I would say this movie is a hard PG-13 due to language, violence, seminudity and general weirdness. It could probably have been R.

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