Writers Adi Hasak and Luc Besson have given director Joseph McGinty Nichol — who goes by the cutesy name McG — three very distinct elements to work with in the new feature film "3 Days to Kill": an espionage tale, a family drama and 1940s film noir.
The problem is the three go together about as well as speed skating and a sandy beach.
Taken on their own, each element is interesting. Kevin Costner handles the role of super assassin Ethan Renner like a cowboy version of 007. Despite being only a few months away from dying, there's still a swagger in his step as he cleans out rooms full of bad guys like a shooting gallery.
He's also quite convincing as a father trying to connect to his daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), after years of being absent. Costner creates a sympathetic character.
Then there's Amber Heard's role as the mysterious CIA boss, Vivi Delay, who vamps into Ethan's life with a promise of a cure for what ails him as long as he takes on one last job tracking down bad guys with the comical names of The Accountant, The Albino and The Wolf. There haven't been thugs with monikers this silly since the 1960s "Batman" TV show.
Heard channels Rita Hayworth as she slinks into a scene with the kind of sexual energy that can speed up puberty. The character is so outlandish, it's hard not to want more of her — just in a different movie.
McG never finds the right stitching to bring together the three elements. His efforts seem counterproductive: So much time is spent trying to make all three work, none gets fully developed.
Costner's assassin for hire could have been the start of a franchise, if that had been the focus. There's just not enough time spent letting him be a super spy. Just when he's in the middle of a major battle, the phone rings and it's his daughter asking how to make spaghetti sauce. The family element should have been introduced in a future film.
Most of the relationship between dad and daughter feels properly tense, but then tender. Because that story line shares time with the others, simple things like Zoey's swing from hating her absentee father to being a loving daughter feels forced. It doesn't help that there's a bicycle riding scene that's the most boring use of a two-wheeler since "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Would the French really applaud a dad showing his teenage daughter how to ride a bike? The answer isn't oui.
Heard's character — despite being the most interesting in the film — always seems set in the wrong movie. If her film noir act was more in synch with the rest of the movie, the character would sizzle. In this battle of competing elements, her appearances feel more like distractions.
Generally, the parts of "3 Days to Kill" just don't add up.
"3 Days to Kill," rated PG-13 for violence, sexual situations, language. Stars Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard. Directed by McG. Running time: 101 minutes. Grade: C-
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.