By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — By turns a mayhem-filled action flick and subdued domestic drama — tinged with some wry humor — "3 Days to Kill" (Relativity) is an odd mix of genres suitable only for thick-skinned grownups.
To some degree that’s a shame because director McG offsets the high quotient of violence in his film with pro-marriage, family-friendly values that, in isolation, could be welcomed by all.
After collapsing in the midst of a mission, gruff, no-nonsense CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is hospitalized and receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With only months to live, Ethan wants to focus on reconciling with his Paris-based wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), and teen daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) from both of whom the demands of his work have long estranged him.
The first step in that process involves promising Christine that he has finally left the spy racket behind for good. So when flamboyant agency operative Vivi (Amber Heard) comes calling and tries to lure Ethan into hunting down and terminating a group of international terrorists, he turns her down flat. Until, that is, she offers him a potentially life-saving experimental medicine — to which the public has, as yet, no access — as his reward.
Vivi sums up Ethan’s choice starkly: "Kill or die."
With Christine off to London on a business trip, Ethan is left to care, as best he can, for hostile, teen-angst-ridden Zoey even as he secretly pursues the bad guys. A recurring joke has the ring tone Zoey has entered for herself on Ethan’s cell phone going off just as his espionage dirty work reaches a nasty climax of one sort or another.
Scenes of Ethan’s warming relationship with Zoey — and of his compassionate interaction with the African immigrants who have occupied his apartment in the City of Lights as squatters — are thus interspersed, and comically juxtaposed, with car chases, explosions, third-degree interrogation sessions and assassinations.
Meanwhile Vivi, who has made her interest in seducing Ethan obvious, is shown to have a taste for aberrant adult entertainment via images that further restrict the movie’s appropriate audience.
Though things are brought to a morally upright conclusion, the way there is landmarked with dead extras and a series of head-slamming, neck-breaking confrontations only those inured to such screen activity should consider witnessing.
The film contains considerable harsh violence with some gore, torture, brief rear nudity, images of decadent sensuality, several instances of profanity and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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