3 Days to Kill is a fun spy movie that might be the most Besson of all of the Luc Besson-produced neo-Eurospy movies to date. (Since the success of The Transporter, his company, EuropaCorp, has reliably churned out mid-budget spy/action movies made with European locations and at least partly European money, most starring slightly over-the-hill Hollywood stars looking for a late career comeback as an action hero. In other words, they’re following the reliable formula of the Sixties "Eurospy" genre, and generally doing an entertaining job of it.) That’s not to say that it’s the best Besson-produced action flick; it’s to say that it’s the most. Besson did not direct 3 Days to Kill, but he co-wrote it (with his Taken collaborator Adi Hasak) and produced it. McG directs, in a style that feels like an homage to Besson. Introducing last week’s Hollywood premiere, the director said that Besson’s early movies like La Femme Nikita and Leon were huge influences on him, and nowhere is that more evident than in 3 Days to Kill. Unlike Besson’s usual go-to helmer of late, Olivier Megaton, McG is a director who understands how to make a comprehensible action sequence to begin with. Add to that a stylistic nod to Besson, who’s one of the all-time masters of the action setpiece, and we’re left with a number of excellent action scenes in 3 Days to Kill. But also true to Besson’s own proclivities, we’re left with a wildly uneven tone that veers haphazardly between spy action and family dramedy, odd ethnic-based comedy, unbelievable coincidences, and schmaltzy, never quite credible, almost creepy scenes between a father and a teenage daughter. Yes, all of the best and worst of Luc Besson is present and accounted for in 3 Days to Kill, hence its claim to the title of the most Besson movie to date. That dooms it to inevitably negative reviews, but if you’re a fan of the French director/producer, you’ll find a whole lot to like. Not only has McG crafted an undeniably Besson action film, but he’s also made a better Besson movie than the last real Besson movie, The Family!
Casino Royale) and OSS 117 (as the Nazi Moeller in OSS 117:Cairo Nest of Spies), the latter by the supremely creepy Tómas Lemarquis. The mission goes spectacularly wrong, but Ethan still puts in a good showing until he’s felled by some sort of seizure, and the villains get away.
Taken here, but unlike Maggie Grace (who at 24 played Liam Neeson’s teenage daughter in the first film like she was a developmentally challenged 10-year-old), actual teenager Steinfeld imbues her character with a credible teenage angst no matter how much Ethan (and the script) chooses to infantilize her. All of the usual antics occur. Ethan is late for the dinner he had promised to prepare (tuna) because he was doing spy stuff. Then it turns out Zoey hates tuna anyway. Ethan is interrupted on more than one occasion by a phone call from or about Zoey while he’s smack in the middle of torturing someone for information in his best Jack Bauer style. And, of course, Ethan uses his spy skills and contacts to delve deeper into his daughter’s personal life than she’d like. (Though, like Taken’s Bryan Mills, his overprotective instincts prove correct.) There’s also a running gag about him buying her a purple girl’s bike and wanting her to ride it when she’s of an age when she’d much rather ride the Metro with her friends or ride in her boyfriend’s car.
The thing is, hackneyed as they might sound, many of these scenes prove genuinely funny! The bike gag is a good one, since her refusal to ride it results in Ethan himself having to haul it around Paris with him while he’s doing his spy stuff. The bike even plays a starring role in the movie’s second-best action sequence, in which he waylays a motorcade with the aid of an explosive he sneakily applies to the undercarriage of an SUV with his shoe while passing it on the bike. More successful comedy comes from Ethan’s decision to stow a bound informant he was in the middle of torturing in his trunk when he’s called by Zoey’s principal to pick her up early because she’s gotten into a fight. How do you lecture your child about violence when there’s a loud, suspicious banging noise emanating from the boot of your car?
Watch the trailer here.