Although he harbored a desire to act, Jean Marais was rejected by the top drama schools in France. The son of a doctor from whom his mother separated in 1917, he came to the attention of film director...
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
It's easy to compare 3 Days to Kill to Luc Besson's flagship franchise Taken. The film itself practically encourages those comparisons, what with the older man who reluctantly returns to a life of killing for the good of his daughter. The hero's quest of hunting down international criminals in a stunning foreign locale is punctuated by all of the explosions and gore your heart could desire. Neither 3 Days screenwriter Besson nor director McG are attempting to blaze a trail or reinvent a wheel. They're simply attempting to create a film that will keep you entertained for two hours, and on that front, at least, they succeed.
Stepping into the Liam Neeson role this time around is Kevin Costner as Ethan Renner, who is either an assasssin or a spy that works for either the CIA or the Secret Service (it's not really all that important in the end), forced to walk away from the job after he is diagnosed with cancer (or maybe a brain tumor). In an attempt to spend his remaining months bonding with his estranged daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld), he moves to Paris to settle down. Of course, that's when Vivi (Amber Heard), a CIA agent/spy/assassin arrives, along with an experimental new drug that could extend Ethan's life, which she will happily pass along... if he takes out their two most wanted criminals within three days.
From there, the film veers wildly between graphic fight sequences, with enough chaos and destruction to equal both Taken movies, and the story of Ethan and Zoey’s growing relationship. Much of the plot is confusing and barely explained – Ethan and Vivi vaguely work for the CIA, although they're unconcerned by the devastating destruction they leave in their wake. The drug is “experimental,” but how it helps or why it’s only available through a giant purple syringe is waived away by the presence of a stack of “research.” Ethan only has three days to complete his mission, but seems to hang around Paris for a lot longer. The villains are wanted by the government for being tangentially involved with a “dirty bomb.” There's a shoehorned-in subplot about family of African immigrants squatting in Ethan's apartment. But despite the fact that so many of these elements never find a way to coalesce into a coherent whole, once the body count starts to rise and the buildings start to fall, it's easy to simply ignore all of that in favor of massive explosions.
When the film works, Ethan's job and his relationship with Zoey blend together in a way that gives 3 Days to Kill some much needed heart and humor — like when he's interrupted in torturing a target by her constant phone calls — but when it doesn’t, the transitions between Ethan taking out the criminals he's hunting and his slightly cloying bonding experience with Zoey can be jarring. As Ethan, Costner is a serviceable action hero; he growls threateningly and stares fondly at Steinfeld when the script calls for it, but for the most part, he appears to be phoning it in. Of course, for this kind of film, that’s all he really needs to do, but it means that by the time the credits roll, much of his performance is already forgotten. As Zoey, Steinfeld does her best with the material, and makes some of the more emotional scenes between herself and Costner affecting. However, even she can’t save the father-daughter plot of the film from becoming trite and stale at times, and so her scenes mostly feel like a quick breather in between the rounds of graphic violence.
Relativity Media via Everett Collection
Heard feels out-of-place as Vivi, who is introduced as the buttoned-down second-in-command to the head of the CIA, but then proceeds to spend the rest of the film speeding around Paris in sports cars, and prancing about in a wardrobe of leather, corsets, and high heels. Costner is clearly in an older-man action film, but Heard is in another film entirely, one in which she’s a sexy super spy single-handedly taking down international criminals. Despite the fact that she’s mostly there to provide exposition and to look pretty, there are moments where you almost wish that she was the focus of 3 Days to Kill instead — or, at the very least, that one of the many subplots had been dropped in favor of expanding her character.
And yet, despite all of the unanswered questions and the weird disparities in tone, 3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining film. The fact that one of the best fight sequences in the film takes place in a supermarket, while Ethan and an unnamed hitman grapple behind a deli counter, means that it's ridiculous enough to keep you engaged, but it's still able to amp up the tension when it needs to. And when you need a break from watching people come perilously close to being decapitated, there's a well-timed visual gag already lined up. It hits all of the notes required of a cheesy action film, and even though it gets far too bogged down in sentiment at times, it's still got enough heart to add a little substance to the flimsy plot.
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3 Days to Kill does exactly what it needs to, and little more. It doesn't want to make you think — in fact, it actively encourages you not to — and it doesn't try to accomplish anything that will stay with you after the credits have rolled. All 3 Days to Kill wants is to keep you amused for a few hours, with a few explosions and some mindless fun. In the end, that's sometimes that's all you really need out of a movie.
Reteamed with Cocteau for "Orphee"; last collaboration for a decade
Acted in, directed and designed the stage production "Britannicus"
Acted in Claude Lelouch's "Les miserables"
Toured as "King Lear"
Appeared in Abel Gance's "Austerlitz"
Had title role in "The Count of Monte Cristo"
Studied acting with Charles Dullin; acted in minor roles with Dullin's company
Met Jean Cocteau; acted on stage in Cocteau's productions of "Oedipe roi/Oedipus Rex" and "Les chevaliers de la table rond/Knights of the Round Table"
Briefly spent time as a company member of the Comedie-Francaise; did not act on stage
Originated the role of Stanislas, a poet chosen to assassinate a Queen with whom he instead falls in love in Cocteau's play "L'aigle a deux tetes/The Eagle With Two Heads"; recreated role on screen in 1948
Left school and worked as a photographer's apprentice
Recreated stage role in Cocteau's filming of "Les parents terribles"
Appeared with Maria Schell and Marcello Mastroianni in Luchino Visconti's "Les nuits blanches/White Nights"
Returned to the Comedie-Francais
Made London stage debut playing the father in a revival of "Les parents terribles", opposite Lila Kedrova
Undertook the leading role in the remake of "Fantomas"; reprised role in several sequels
Began studying acting; came to the attention of Marcel L'Herbier who cast him in first film role in "L'Epervier" (1933)
Appeared as the Devil in "Parking", in a musical remake of "Orphee" directed by Demy
Final film role as an elderly art dealer in "Stealing Beauty", directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Acted in and directed a stage revival of Cocteau's "Oedipe Roi"
Had one of his greatest screen triumphs as the Beast in Cocteau's "La Belle et la bete/Beauty and the Beast"
Starred in "L'eternal retour/Eternal Return", a modern-day version of the Tristan and Isolde, directed by Jean Delannoy and scripted by Cocteau
After WWI, moved to just outside Paris with his mother
Played Prospero in a staging of Shakepeare's "The Tempest"
Cast as the king in Jacques Demy's fairy tale "Peau d'ane/Donkey Skin"
Created role of the son smothered by his moter in play "Les Parents terribles"; part written especially for him by Cocteau
Reunited with Cocteau for "Le testament d'Orphee"; also marked Cocteau's final film
Served in the French Air Force
Although he harbored a desire to act, Jean Marais was rejected by the top drama schools in France. The son of a doctor from whom his mother separated in 1917, he came to the attention of film director Maurice L'Herbier who cast him in small roles in "L'Epervier" and "L'Aventurier" (both 1933). Marais worked at the theater run by Charles Dullin in return for acting classes and a chance to play minor stage roles. In 1937, the actor met the man who would change his life--poet, playwright and designer Jean Cocteau. They became lovers and Cocteau began to utilize the handsome Marais in various stage productions like "Oedipe Roi" and as Sir Galahad in "Les Chevaliers de la table rond". The writer created the role of the smothered son in "Les Parents terribles" especially for the actor, which proved an artistic high point for both. With his striking looks, ethereal charm and vulnerability, Marais proved a perfect choice to embody Cocteau's tragic heroes. He first made his mark in the author's retelling of the Tristan and Isolde myth in "L'Eternal retourne/The Eternal Return" (1943), directed by Jean Delannoy. But perhaps their best-known collaboration remains the poetic masterpiece "La Belle et la bete/Beauty and the Beast" (1945). Of their remaining films together, the 1948 version of "Les parents terribles" ranks as the best. By the time of "Orphee" (1949), their personal relationship was ending, although they remained close friends.
The 1950s saw Marais undertake swashbuckling roles and become France's version of Errol Flynn in a number of popular but critically-derided vehicles like "The Count of Monte Cristo" (1954) and "Le Bossu" (1959). On the advice of Cocteau, he accepted the role of "Fantomas" in the 1964 remake and went on to essay the athletic master criminal in several sequels. In 1970, Jacques Demy tapped him to appear as the widowed king seeking a new queen in the fairy tale "Peau d'ane/Donkey Skin", which was an homage to Cocteau. By then, though, his film career was all but over and Marais returned to the stage, reviving Cocteau plays and appearing as "King Lear". He reteamed with Demy to play the Devil in "Parking" (1985), an ill-advised musical version of "Orphee". His last screen appearances were in Claude Lelouch's "Les Miserables" (1994) and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty" (1995).