3 Days to Kill (2014)

3 days to killReleased: February 21, 2014. Directed by: McG. Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard. Runtime: 113 min.

French writer and producer (sometimes director) Luc Besson is back at it again writing the story and co-writing the screenplay (with Adi Hasak) for “3 Days to Kill.” Music video director turned filmmaker McG takes over directing duties; tackling a bunch of genres in once that sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. It’s part-actioner, part-drama, and part-comedy – and wow, that’s just too many genres at once for some directors. McG produces some great TV shows (“Supernatural,” “Nikita”) but the films he’s directed are usually only okay for me (I’ve only seen three of his – the two “Charlie’s Angels” flicks and “This Means War”); and his newest movie is fun and good for what it is: a generic actioner.

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a dying Secret Service agent who’s given three to six months to live because of a disease that starts out with a bad cough. When he learns of his fate, he decides to reconnect his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). When he goes to Paris to visit them, he has to promise his wife that he’s done working for the Secret Service. He promises, but just his luck – a CIA operative named Vivi (Amber Heard) tasks him with taking down a notorious criminal called the Wolf (sadly, not the Wolf of Wall Street). He’s only given three days to take down the criminal for some reason that doesn’t get explained that well. My suspicion is that they just needed a title. If you blink at the beginning when they explain the criminal’s crimes, you’ll forget why he’s being hunted. If Ethan is able to kill Wolf within three days, he’s given the chance to receive an experimental drug that could save his life. On top of that, he’s trying to reconnect with his daughter. Since he didn’t call before going to visit them, the wife is going away for business. He has to act as a babysitter for the time being.

Film Review 3 Days To KillAs you can tell, it’s a lot for McG to juggle. With this film, I think he expresses that he is perfectly competent to direct actioners, some big laughs and even some decent drama – but put it all in a blender and shove it into one film, it ends up being a decently fun, but tonally uneven actioner. There’s enough action to entertain fans of Besson’s work, and it’s at least better than “Taken 2.” It’s going to entertain action fans outside of his fanbase, too; and we should all just be thankful that he resists the urge to put Zoey into mortal danger and get kidnapped. The action is a bit generic, but I’ll admit, I say that about a lot of action movies! It’s just difficult for an action film to be not generic these days, because components of this plot feels like it’s been done in “Crank.” The editing is dizzying and too quick during some of the action scenes, but otherwise decent in the dramatic sequences. When Ethan is dizzy because of his disease, the cinematography is shaky and has that drug-induced haze about it (if you know what I mean) – so that’s fine because that’s the point. These temporary dazes happen at climactic times all too convenient for the villains.

The reason why this is tonally uneven is because it goes from one scene where he is in his bathroom using the PG-13 version of torture (ripping tape from a man’s armpit, ouch!) on a suspect that could lead him to the Wolf, and he’s called to visit his daughter’s school because she got in a fight.There are a lot of scenes like that, where you can tell an action scene is on the way by the score; but it gets interrupted by a call from the daughter. Is the film trying to express that children are annoying little shits, and that parenting is difficult? It seems like it. Regardless of the tonal shifts, I think this is a fun movie with some good laughs. Costner and Steinfeld share a few good scenes that show the struggles of reconnecting, and when there’s sweetness – it’s much more pleasant than the daughter being sour towards her father. The two stars share a great chemistry, and they elevate their respective characters to a finer level. Costner’s chemistry with Connie Nielson is just fine; there’s a much bigger focus on the father-daughter relationship. The film expresses how much of an impact being in the Secret Service can have on one’s relationships; because one has to put their needs in front of their own by keeping them out of danger. More on Costner: It’s nice that he’s staying busy in action movies, already being in two in 2014 thus far. This one as the secret agent doing the killings; the first one, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” as the recruiter/mentor – giving people the intelligence to do their jobs well.

3 DaysAmber Heard takes on that role here, always sporting a different hairstyle in each scene. Either she was going through from serious identity issues herself while filming, or she’s just trying to stay way undercover. She gives off a dark and mysterious vibe, where many won’t be able to tell if she’s a protagonist or an antagonist throughout. She’s decent, but she’s probably present for the sex appeal. She gives Ethan his orders, but the fact why he must kill this guy within three days is so bloody forgettable, that it just squanders some have high-stakes intensity it might have had.

Heard’s character shows up at random times to check in, but there’s a lot of other random crap going on in this flick. Ethan has an obsession with this purple bike he intended to give to Zoey as a present, where McG feels the need to present a montage of Ethan riding it home. One other main, and random sub-plot concerns a family of squatters in Ethan’s apartment. They’ve made themselves comfortable, and it seems that they’ve been occupying his apartment for a few months, probably more. Ethan’s relationship with the squatters might be to portray his humanity – but his love for his wife and daughter does that enough; so it’s rather redundant. I learn that squatting is an issue in Paris, so it is an accurate portrayal – but with the already crowded plot, Luc Besson’s socio-economical comment (making more people aware of it) in the film is another thing that feels out of place.

Score58/100

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2

The cyborg who once tried to kill Sarah Connor is dead, and another T-101 must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from an even more powerful and advanced Terminator, the T-1000.

Release Date: July 3, 1991

Director: James Cameron

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton

Runtime: 137 min

Robert Patrick is fantastic as the T-1000, and it’s very exciting when he always bounces back. He makes a stupendous villain. Arnie is great and extremely cool as the Terminator, his most iconic character. James Cameron is the best director for these movies. Jonathan Mastow is adequate directing the third, but McG, director of the fourth, might as well just quit the film industry (at least as a director).

I don’t remember The Terminator that well, but this is one of the greatest sequels ever made. This has some outstanding action sequences that simply cannot be beaten. Those scenes at the mall near the beginning are freaking awesome. This is a near-perfect masterpiece, and one of the very best action movies of the 1990s. I think the middle drags a little (at the trailer park, mostly), but that’s hardly a fault of the film. It has to develop plot, and even though it bores me a little, it transitions itself back into the action quickly and with stellar ease.

I love this movie and almost everything about it, except Edward Furlong. He’s endlessly irritating in this movie, his character’s actions are idiotic, and I just wish he wouldn’t ask so many stupid questions. I wish any other actor would have played John Connor. The character is a stupid little shit, as is Furlong. Though, I did like Furlong in American History X; and it seems we were all annoying little shits at the age of fourteen.

98/100

This Means War (2012)

This Means War

Release Date: February 17, 2012. Director: McG. Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy. Runtime: 1hr, 37 min. Tagline: It’s SPY Against SPY.

Best buddy CIA agents FDR [Franklin] (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are marked for death by Heinrich, an enemy of the CIA. He marks them for death because they killed his brother. They get pulled out of the field because of this. Tuck decides to insert some fun into his life by trying online dating. He meets the beautiful Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), and he is immediately stricken. FDR is also stricken when he flirts with her in a video store – and he soon swoons her into a date. The two budaroo’s soon find out they’re dating the same woman, and they “respectfully” decide to keep quiet and let her make the decision. Though, they’re finding being respectful is a little harder than expected, and they put cameras all over her home and start sabotaging each other’s dates.

Oh, you know that old buddy comedy formula. They each vow that this something-or-rather competition (in this case, winning the affection of a sexy gal) will not get in the way of their friendship. However, that promise is never kept. And then they’re all magically hunky-dory in the end.

If you go into this expecting full-blown quality action, you won’t get it. There are about four action sequences that are enjoyable, but mediocre. And they are certainly not memorable. This is very much a romantic comedy. Though, it is more comedy than romance. It’s mostly hilarious with some comedy lacking in a few areas of the film. The three protagonists are likeable, but hypocritical.

SPOILER ALERT: When Lauren finds out that FDR and Tuck knew each other, she gets angry and says “I trusted you.” Well, lady, you’re the one who was dating two men at the same time. Then she immediately forgives the two lads. END OF SPOILERS.

The story is okay, but it’s very predictable. In the simplest of words, it’s just a story of retaliation. The main protagonists just go after each other after one sabotages one’s date, and it’s just a never-ending cycle. The story certainly isn’t one for the ages, and it really isn’t a film I’d like to endure again any time soon. Mostly because it has some of the worst storytelling I’ve ever seen. The general premise is an okay one, but it’s just brought down by a few aspects. This is mostly the Heinrich sub-plot. The writers never really forget about him, but they don’t make his character anything special. They drop a few reminders throughout the film that he’ll probably return. Also, the storytelling is so bad, that I’m 95% sure they never even tell us why they’re after Heinrich. Sure, some characters say: “What does this have to do with the Heinrich case?” But I don’t think they ever even bothered to tell us. Sure, it might be ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ confidential, but we, as the audience, what to know! Also, the only reason FDR and Lauren really hit it off was because Lauren was trying to make an ex-boyfriend jealous, and the writers completely forgot about him after the fact.

This Means War is by no means a horrid film, it is only a flawed and an extremely mediocre one. It’s a fun, funny and entertaining ride, that just gets completely brought down by a far-too average story, lack of action, poor storytelling and characters that are hard to care for completely.

This also violated the rule of ‘Don’t show a movie that’s better than your own.’ In a nutshell, don’t freaking show Gone with the Wind in your movie!

Score: 60 out 100