Kids, don’t drink and write or you could cause an accident like the script for “3 Days to Kill.”
The film comes from French writer/producer Luc Besson (of the “Transporter” series), who is determined to prove that not all European films are sophisticated and artistic. It’s a lumpy agglomeration of henpecked-dad sitcom humor, sado-comedy and plastic explosive. It aims for offbeat but hits tone deaf dead center.
Kevin Costner stars as a grumpy-lovable CIA hit man Ethan Renner. He’s divorced and an absentee dad, what with killing people afar. He means well, though. In the midst of one high-caliber hailstorm he ducks out to give his seldom-seen daughter Zoey (“True Grit’s” Hailee Steinfeld) a birthday call. Miss Teen Attitude insists that he sing to her over the phone. He does, then bolts off to make a pile of corpses.
He wants to fix their relationship fast. He has late-stage Movie Cancer, the kind that allows you to brawl like an Olympian but makes you pass out when you have the drop on the world’s biggest villain. Renner is assigned to spymaster Vivi Delay (Amber Heard). At headquarters she dresses like a beige office mouse. In the field she wears full makeup, naughty dominatrix heels and skintight black leather, because it’s important to be inconspicuous when you’re undercover.
Delay taps the terminally ill Renner for a vital assignment. Apparently Obamacare requires the CIA to ignore pre-existing conditions. Renner’s quarry is the Albino. In return for taking the assignment, Delay gives Renner a magic elixir that will halt his cancer while people shoot at him.
Renner reunites with Zoey in Paris. He treats the high-schooler like she’s an enlarged 9-year-old. She pitches hissy fits about dating and sneaks off to clubs. Kids! Renner, who maimed the Albino’s Paris driver for information, follows up with some questions about parenting. The family men bond on the spot because, of course, they would.
Renner, overcompensating for his lost years, doesn’t discipline Zoey for her transgressions but punishes every lecherous lad around her with made-in-USA cowboy violence. In the meantime he teaches her how to ride a bike,and how to slow dance at the prom. Softening, she places her squawky pop music ringtone on his phone. No worries: A top assassin would always put his phone on vibrate before stalking his quarry, right?
Renner is not the first dimming star to fall into Besson’s cinematic void. Liam Neeson (in the popular “Taken” series) and Robert De Niro (in last year’s Mafia misfire “The Family”) have played variations on the same fish out of water/loving dad/remorseless killer character. Never the lightest comedian, Costner can’t find the punch lines in the story’s culture clash encounters between his blunt-instrument Yank and arrogant Frenchmen. It’s a shame for him, but the finale, which promises a followup film, is a nightmare for us.