An aged CIA agent dying of a brain tumor at odds with his estranged wife and maladjusted teenage daughter has one last job in Paris. Sound depressing? It isn’t. Thanks to a wonderfully laid-back performance by Kevin Costner. He’s Ethan Renner, an American super-spy, who the Parisians call, “cowboy.” We know why. He shoots first and doesn’t ask any questions. His assignment is to liquidate a couple of nuclear arms dealers, the Wolf (Richard Sammel), and the Albino (Tómas Lemarquis), but he must make good with his long neglected wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and daughter, Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld).
To Christine, he tells the terminal truth; Zooey just thinks he’s under the weather (“You might want to take something for that cough. It’s really annoying”).
Be aware that “3 Days to Kill” is a Luc “Taken” Besson production, so you’re in for repeated shootouts, car chases and some sadism. It’s the sadism that Costner’s Ethan has fun with.
After he duct tapes the Wolf’s Italian accountant (Bruno Ricci), Zooey calls and asks how to make spaghetti sauce. Scared out of his wits, the accountant is more than happy to tell her.
The movie makes little sense. Ethan is kept alive by his control agent, the vivacious ViVi (Amber Heard), and her giant syringe with its cancer-stalling serum. Yet, when in action, Ethan is an ace, up there with Bryan Mills, the American mad-dad CIA guy played by Liam Neeson in “Taken.”
In a Besson film, the European baddies don’t stand a chance against the American cowboys, with or without cancer.
Unlike Neeson, Kostner plays it for laughs, but then Ethan’s daughter only has to fend off a few disco punks, not the deadly sex traffickers in the first film.
If Ethan doesn’t die of the disease, he is likely to find himself in another Luc Besson franchise. After all, “3 Days to Kill” opened big at the box office ($12.3 million) and “Taken 3” is on the way.