Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ten Statements About....3 DAYS TO KILL (2013)

This film is actually as much about this kind of scene...
1) If you’re thinking this is a script where Luc Besson scratched out ‘Liam Neeson’ and wrote in ‘Kevin Costner,’ you’re kinda right....but then, Besson has been known to work with other Hollywood stars whose light had faded (i.e. Travolta in the unbearable From Paris With Love), and I don’t know if Neeson would have worked as well as Costner does due to the nature of the role and his relationship with the family he’s trying to reunite wih.  Plus working with a group other than his stock players sometimes revitalizes him.

2) Boy, Amber Heard--who is obviously assaying the role Besson would have given his beloved Maggie Grace--is having a ball playing Vivi.  Never showing up in the same outfit or hair color or hairstyle twice, Heard ends up playing the spy master as one part Mae West, one part Veronica Lake and one part Sigourney Weaver.  She’s a delight to watch every time she walks into a shot.

3) I was originally dismayed to see McG had directed this picture....but I have to admit that the man’s style has matured.  Instead of the ADD style of his earliest pictures, McG shows a newfound capacity to handle longer, subtler scenes of genuine human interaction with style and grace.  More importantly, he’s discarded most of his jittercam action style and is able to choreograph his set pieces much more effectively.

4) You know, I can do without the subtitles for the guy who may have a real thick French accent, but is speaking in English.  I mean, yeah his words are garbled, but they’re understandable.
...as it is about this kind of scene.

5) Since this is a Luc Besson penned action movie, the actual villians are little more than video game stage bosses...hell, they even have stage boss names like ‘The Wolf’ and ‘The Albino’ and ‘The Accountant.’  But that’s part of the point when it comes to being a Besson Bad Guy--you’re there to make the bad ass hero look good.

6) Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this version of the Besson thriller is how Costner’s Ethan ends up going to some of his quarry for advice on how to raise his daughter.  This even creates a strange, sympathetic-yet-sadistic relationship between him and Marc Andreoni’s Mitat that has a very Lethal Weapon 2 Mel Gibson/Joe Pesci vibe.  And the narrative arc between these two is so satisfying that the ultimate payoff makes total sense.

7) Perhaps the big problem with the film structurally is that the film’s twist, when it comes--and you know it’s coming the moment The Wolf mentions his partner--isn’t set up at all.  We never see the partner until the final set piece, although we have seen one of his relatives.  It’s a strange and puzzling choice.

8) I find it fascinating how the closer Costner gets to reuniting with his family, the more he begins to look like our concept of a spy--turning in his pseudo-cowboy outfit for a series of more stylish suits as the film progresses until, in the final act, he’s the very model of a superspy.
Yes, Amber Heard...you are Pretty With A Pistol...

9)  Luc, dude...what is it about you having people’s daughters run off to do something naughty and then get, I don’t know, grabbed by slavers or, in this case, nearly raped in a bathroom by three guys?  You got issues you need to come to grips with.

10) You know, as good as the action is at times, some of the best moments involve Costner and his onscreen daughter, Hailee Steinfeld’s Zooey going through some of the rites of passage a father and daughter have, albeit a few years too late.  While I was in no way a fan of Steinfeld’s performance, finding it strident at times (this was a case where the film would have benefited from a much younger Maggie Grace), but there’s a genuine warmth between the two actors which makes their narrative arc thoroughly believable.

Overall...a typical Luc-Besson-European-Set-Action-Thriller like the ones he seems to pump out every year, but with a surprisingly warm emotional center and much more subtlely directed than I ever thought possible by McG.

I ventured into Manhattan to visit The AMC Kips Bay this time.  Trailers included typical action fare as Brick Mansions (Besson’s attempt to Americanize District B13 that might be more interesting because it’s the first posthumous Paul Walker role); Sabotage (Could somebody please tell Arnold to stop...just..stop?); and Edge of Tomorrow (It’s the Annual Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner, only with the ‘what is he doing here?’ presence of Doug Limon behind the camera), plus inexplicably one for a romcom (The Other Woman, which continues to chronicle Cameron Diaz’ ongoing ungraceful journey towards old age).

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