True creative types think outside the box. That sentiment goes double for Luc Besson, the scribe behind “3 Days to Kill,” a highly entertaining wisp of matinee fluff.
The success of last year’s “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson, made the old-guy action genre the new darling of writers and aging stars alike. Kevin Costner, off-putting when wearing his halo, jettisons that angelic pretense to create a thoroughly engaging CIA operative and frustrated family man.
Costner portrays Ethan, an assassin put out to pasture after his physical reveals a fatal illness. With mere months to live and Christmas on the way, Ethan makes haste for Paris, where he discovers his rundown apartment inhabited by an extended family of Jamaican squatters. When Ethan asks the police for help, he learns French law protects the squatters from eviction during winter.
Fortunately Paris is also home to Ethan’s lovely, estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and their feisty 15-year-old daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld).
Christine allows Ethan to stay for three days in her well-appointed Parisian apartment while she travels to London on business. Charged with supervising Zooey, Ethan struggles to reestablish his fatherly role, even when assailed by Zooey’s lies, petulance or sulking in an effort to get her way.
Whether meeting with Zooey’s school principal or tracking down the rebellious girl, Ethan’s dance card is certainly full. But wait, there’s a luscious young siren — called Vivi Delay — in possession of an experimental drug that promises to add years to Ethan’s life. In addition she offers him piles of money to find and kill a couple of really nasty bad guys known as the Wolf (Richard Sammel) and the Albino (Tomas Lemarquis).
Straddling the line between farce and action/thriller, Ethan’s extracurricular activities are equally amusing and incredible. The film cobbles together scenes of comedic torture that include “manscaping” with duct tape and action that includes Ethan using the heads of ill-intentioned youths to break the toilets, sinks and mirrors in a public restroom.
To tell you more would ruin the unexpected twists around every corner of a story that aspires to show how deeply men yearn to protect those they love. Perhaps because we want to believe and perhaps because the central trio of Ethan, Christine and Zooey is entirely winsome, we willingly root for the hardest-working dad on the planet during one fateful weekend in gay Paree.