2 hours to become Liam Neeson
The latest in once-great Director Luc Besson's prolific but generic writer/producer output sees Costner take up Neeson's trademark role.In this film Costner plays an ageing - and dying - retired government agent hoping to both rack up enough kills, and mend bridges with his estranged ex-wife and daughter, before time runs out. Besson appears to have a standard recipe for these actioners, which always relies on an ex- (or current) something-or-other (insert military training background) guy tasked with an important (often unofficial or personal) mission which involves a young woman (who, if teenage, will be the lead character's daughter and, if not, will be the love interest). It's a shotgun approach of pure quantity over quality, churning out enough of these generic action flicks - which almost always come in two flavours, a PG-13 cinema cut, and an 'unrated' cut for home media - in the hope that the sheer volume will ensure across-the-board modest success.Occasionally it works out well - The Transporter launched Statham's now-huge action career, and Taken did the same for Neeson, giving him a late-career action icon resurgence, and both the original Taxi and District 13 franchises were largely fun - but it's been frequently hobbled by sequels, and even remakes, with a middle-ground of reliable-but-average output which has still normally given a middle-aged actor in a career lull a welcome action boost (Guy Pearce in Lockout, John Travolta in From Paris with Love) but never comes close to touching the glory of the most successful sibling - Taken. The question always becomes, will this be so-and-so's Taken?
So, is 3 Days to Kill Kevin Costner's Taken?
The short answer is probably closer to a 'no' than a 'yes', although 3 Days to Kill is not without merit, playing to its strengths - most notably Costner's gruff, consistently watchable lead character - and proving frequently more enjoyable in its handling of the estranged family subplot (involving True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld and Gladiator's Connie Nielsen), than in the intermittent action beats that pepper the piece (which are frequently undermined by a strange walked-in-from-a-different-movie contribution from Amber Heard's dominatrix handler).
Indeed, as has been the case with many of Besson's writer/producer output of late - including his disappointing last directorial feature, The Family - it's the tonal imbalance that frequently undermines these films. Is it a thriller or a comedy, a family drama or a pure actioner? Besson clearly wants to have his cake and eat it but, in doing so, often leaves these films with a mixed-bag screenplay right from the get-go; one that fuses ingredients randomly and has very little consistent texture or flavour.
Silly but fitfully engaging, this may not be a stepping-stone to a late-blooming action career for Costner, but it's still an enjoyable attempt.
Thankfully 3 Days to Kill isn't too much of a roller coaster affair when it comes to shifting tones and themes, simply playing out as basically a family drama, striped with comedic action flourishes - and that just so happens to be bookended by two solid, even quite exciting, action sequences. Sure, viewers may end up wanting more of one, or the other (the trailers are quite misleading, frequently highlighting just the action) - if they'd kept momentum and tone from the opening set-piece, this probably could have been Costner's Taken - but the overall experience is far from a complete loss, and, as you settle into the mid-section of Costner's dying hitman desperately trying to mend bridges with his teen daughter, you find that that story is almost as enjoyable, only for different reason.
I'm sure that seeing McG's name on the director's chair will probably be enough to put off even those drawn to the piece because of Costner's involvement, but, actually, I'm not sure McG could have done much better with this material. Sure, he's dallying in This Means War territory - which was an insipid blend of action, comedy and romance that wasted not only Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon, but also the previously undefeated Tom Hardy, probably remaining one of the scant few TKOs in his film history - but 3 Days to Kill is far more engaging than that unfunny mess, and instead plays out as a largely charming, fitfully exciting piece which may not quite reward a trip to the cinema, but will probably play out nicely on its home cinema run.
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