French filmmaker Luc Besson has created a new genre of film in recent years with his production company EuroCorp. I call it the old white guy kicks ass in France genre. In the past few years we’ve seen Liam Neeson (“Taken” and “Taken 2”), John Travolta (“From Paris with Love”) and Robert De Niro (“The Family”) all take on the City of Lights and kick some major derriere.
Academy Award winner Kevin Costner is the latest to tackle such a role in the new spy thriller, “3 Days to Kill.” Sharing many similarities with the original, “Taken,” Costner plays Ethan Renner, a dying CIA agent with just a few months to live. He chooses to spend his last few months reconnecting with his estranged wife and daughter in Paris, but then is offered an experimental drug by the CIA that may cure his cancer. But in return, he must do one last job for the company.
While I’ve more or less enjoyed the previous entries in Besson’s “old white guy kicks ass in France” genre, they haven’t been particularly memorable. They all feature Americans who bully their way around the country, basically not caring what kind of trail of destruction they leave behind. The French are also often mocked in these films, which I find quite unusual coming from a French filmmaker. It’s like they’re deliberately asking the audience to laugh at them with an “it’s okay! We’re French, and we can take a joke!” attitude.
And there’s usually a bit of heart in these films but “3 Days to Kill” tries way too hard to make us care about Ethan and his daughter. Ethan is supposed to be on a job for the CIA, but has all the time in the world to shop for groceries, teach his daughter to ride a bike and go to the amusement park. As a result, the film lacks focus and the family storyline ends up distracting. Costner brings his usual down-home vanilla charm and Hailee Steinfeld is cute, almost bordering on annoying as his daughter, and while their chemistry is decent, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about them much, despite their ample screen time together. It’s almost like the writers forgot that Ethan was supposed to be dying sometimes and only resurrected that plot point when convenient.
But even though “3 Days to Kill” is a passable film at best, I’m kind of hoping that Besson continues to cast middle-aged white guys to cause a big ruckus in Paris. Who knows, maybe his next film will have Bill Paxton in shootout yelling, “Game over man!” in French. Now that I’d love to see.
“3 Days to Kill,” 113 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.