Even Kevin Costner as a former CIA agent fails to rescue this one. Watch it only if a few well-captured car chases and action scenes are enough to satiate you, say critics.
As far as premises go, 3 Days to Kill has it pat on - ex-CIA operative Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is suffering from cancer and has just a few months to live. An absent father all his life, he wants to mend his relationship with his estranged wife and daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). In the middle of it lands up a CIA femme fatale (Amber Heard) who is ready to give him a wonder experimental drug in return of one last job.
The man for all seasons Kevin Costner also delivers. As an ageing operative who has been pulled out of retirement, he is believable and full of beans. He is good as the father trying to make up to his daughter for years of absence as well. As Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post says, "Costner makes juggling his character's twin obligations look easy. Ethan rarely breaks a sweat, whether he's shooting arms dealers or pulling a bunch of would-be rapists off of his daughter in a nightclub men's room."
Neither the direction nor the script, however, manages to make that leap of faith. O'Sullivan writes, "As melodrama, 3 Days to Kill comes across as pat and saccharine. As a popcorn flick, it's overly predictable. And the balance between the two is off."
Story writer Luc Besson and director McG have come in for a fair share of criticism for this shoddy job. "Luc Besson provided the story and co-wrote the screenplay for a film directed by McG, who does his usual McGhastly job with action and is McGruesome when it comes to comedy," writes Kyle Smith of New York Post.
The generous dose of unintentional humour ensures you can't take action/emotional scenes seriously. As Scott Bowles of USA Today writes in his review, "It's hard to tell what director McG was going for here, because each moment of tension comes undone with a scene of banality. After blowing away a few henchmen, Ethan comes home to find a family of squatters has moved into his house and painted his bedroom a wacky yellow. The French police tell him simply that squatters have rights in France, and to boot them out would land Ethan in jail. And that's one of more believable twists."
Smith mentions another of such scenes. "When the movie is really funny is when it's trying to be emotional. Teaching his daughter to dance, Ethan puts on a slow-dance record. Better: It's "Make It With You." Best: He tells his ex-wife, "I love her the same way I love you." I hope not, buddy."
With action and melodrama both thrown inside this cauldron and given a thorough shake, the film falls prey to its own ambition. Bowles sums it up, "Contrived and manic, the film can't decide whether it's a thriller, comedy or feel-good family film. The result is a convoluted mess that has one good twist and two good car chases. But it's hardly enough to bring this spy flick in from the cold."
Critics are unanimous: watch it only if you have time to spare because even at less than two hours, it will feel like a really long time.