French filmmaker Luc Besson is a prolific film producer. His company churns out slick action movies with a regularity that suggests that the standard disclaimer of “It can take years to get a movie made” that Hollywood (and Bollywood) likes to chant like a mantra is little more than a lily-livered lie.
The truth is a little less cut and dried.
Mr. Besson writes and produces several movies a year but they are not always very good. Case in point 3 Days to Kill. Set in beautifully sunny Paris it is the tale of dying CIA agent Ethan (Kevin Costner) who decides to spend the remainder of his days getting to know his young daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld) better than he has thus far. Then a femme fatale called Vivi (Amber Heard) shows up with the offer of an experimental drug that could extend his life, if he agrees to do one last job for the Agency. It is okay to roll your eyes at this point, I did.
So why didn’t 3 Days to Kill become the new Taken? It had some of the same elements: father-daughter relationship issues, the ageing father has skills that make him invaluable in a fight, Paris, potential for some action… should be a fun time at the movies, right?
Here’s what doesn’t work:
Too many sub-plots:
Vivi is chasing some mysterious baddie whom Ethan may have seen during another job.
Zooey is trying to hook up with some boy at school while Ethan is obsessed with teaching her how to ride a bicycle.
Ethan’s estranged wife is hassling him about not having given up the old life yet.
There is the African family that has squatted in Ethan’s apartment.
The effects of the mysterious drug are not properly explained.
All of this adds up to a jumbled mess that doesn’t allow the audience to actually properly fixate on any one thing, making it extremely difficult to root for Ethan’s success.
Contrast this with the clear cut goal in the original Taken: The man’s daughter is kidnapped and he goes to Paris to tear the city apart, trying to rescue his daughter.
Kevin Costner is no Liam Neeson. And Ms. Heard may be able to squeeze herself into slinky outfits but she is no thespian. Every line she delivers lands with a thud.
What is really going on in the end there? Zooey’s awkward attempt to — and I’m guessing here because it is not very clear — lose her virginity? Ethan shooting up a roomful of people, while his wife and daughter are nearby? And that conveniently inconvenient drug’s effects kicking in again? Come on!
Final Analysis: Whereas multiple attempts at replicating a successful formula for continued financial success is understandable, it is worth noting that repeated failures of the same formula could just as easily wipe out the gains made from the successful film.
My Advice: Skip it. And hope that Taken 3 is better.