This weekend it looks like Kevin Costner’s comeback may hit a snag with his Liam Neeson-esque 3 Days to Kill. The competition for the geriatric action flick is Paul W.S. Anderson’s volcano disaster flick, Pompeii.
Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame, plays slave-turned-gladiator Milo. As a child, he watched as the conquering Roman army, led by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), massacre his family and entire tribe. Fast forward 17 years and Milo is rising in popularity as a gladiator. He is recruited for a festival in the city of Pompeii. While there, he quickly falls in love with a girl of royalty, Cassia (Emily Browning). Conveniently enough, Corvus is also in town to attain power and force Cassia to marry him. Of course, this drama becomes nearly meaningless as Mount Vesuvius is only a day away from eruption, where it will destroy the entire city in legendary style.
This movie is brought to us by director Paul W.S. Anderson, who made such film classics as Alien vs Predator and the Resident Evil series. His only subjectively “good” movies are Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon. Even then, those were made in the ’90s, so it’s been a while since he’s made a film of any merit. Nearly every movie he’s made since then starred his wife Milla Jovovich. I’m surprised and happy that she wasn’t involved in Pompeii.
The gladiator angle was visited earlier this year in The Legend of Hercules. That movie made me wish that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator had never been created, as to avoid the knock-offs. The Coliseum action in Pompeii, however, is surprisingly fun to watch. It will feel very familiar for fans of the Russell Crowe epic. Instead of the protagonist known as The Spaniard, we have one called The Celt. For the first 2/3 of the movie, it will feel like Gladiator-lite.
The actor who clearly knows what kind of movie he’s in, is Kiefer Sutherland. He hams up his villainous turn as a corrupt, power-hungry Roman senator. Kit Harington, is serviceable in the lead role. Yet, he may be relegated to fantastical period movies, given his popularity on Game of Thrones.
Pompeii is far from an original story. Beyond the Gladiator impressions, its love story becomes Titanic without the emotion. As the audience, you’re never persuaded to care about the outcome of Cassia and Milo. They’re not unconvincing at all, but your attention will be on the impending destruction of Vesuvius. Anderson keeps this on the forefront of your mind. Every time the camera floats above the city, showing the decadence of Pompeii it blatantly scans above to the rumbling volcano. It’s almost as if Anderson wanted to remind audiences that if they ever get bored, they should not worry because there will be a pyroclastic disaster in the near future.
My equation for Pompeii is:
Titanic – Billy Zane x Donald Sutherland Jr + Gladiator/2 + Dante’s Peak = Pompeii
In a movie where several Gladiator lines are stolen, there is one line they did not ask. “Are you not entertained?” Somehow, I was. Although, Pompeii urges you to see it in 3D on the big screen, it is only worth renting.
3 Days to Kill
In 3 Days to Kill, Costner plays Ethan Renner, a supposed CIA lifer except for the fact that early in the film he finds out he has brain cancer and has only 5 months to live. I guess 5 months to kill was not a gripping title. With his limited time, he attempts to make peace with his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). Even though he has is considerably too old for any missions, he is somewhat recruited by CIA agent Vivi (Amber Heard). She offers him an experimental drug to cure his brain cancer in exchange for a few missions.
Apparently, this drug works but also potentially kills you if your heart rate raises above 55 rpm/mph… or something like that. It’s basically the opposite of the Jason Statham flick, Crank. Renner actually needs to be boring and composed to stay alive. Doesn’t that sound like a surefire fun espionage movie?
When I see “directed by McG” in the opening credits I honestly try to remove my biases about the director’s past work. Yet, he manages to reassure me of his sloppy direction with each picture.
There are good elements hidden in 3 Days to Kill. Early on, Renner buys his daughter a purple bike that she clearly doesn’t want. This bike becomes his companion, of sorts, through the rest of the movie. The montages of this old spy riding a girl’s bike through the streets of Paris is nearly smile-worthy. Also, he returns to his apartment after months of being away and finds that it’s been inhabited by a large family of friendly squatters. Particular moments like these make you wish that a different director and editor had made this movie. It felt like the first draft of a spy flick that has promise but is equally forgettable.
Liam Neeson has reinvented himself as the over-the-hill action star. Regardless of the quality of his career choices the past couple of years, one thing is guaranteed in every Neeson flick – senseless action. Kevin Costner should have taken note. There are surprisingly few action set pieces in 3 Days to Kill. You’ll notice the lack of intensity at the halfway point when all of a sudden, some random hitman shoots Renner with a shotgun in a cafe (Don’t worry, he’s wearing a flak jacket). This scene comes out of nowhere and makes no sense story-wise.
Actually, each scene only manages to confuse you further about the movie’s intentions. The majority of 3 Days focuses on Renner’s interactions with his daughter (i.e. unconvincing emotional scenes). Then randomly he’ll be torturing a crooked car dealer and/or an accountant. Meanwhile, he is dealing with his health issues due to the crippling miracle cure and drinks vodka to overcome it all. Oh, and add two random villains into the mix, The Albino and The Wolf. I would like to tell you why they are villains, but it’s never quite clear. Their faces look menacing and they carry mysterious briefcases, I guess.
For all the attention it gave to the family angle and miracle cure, it should have been called “3 Days to Heal.”
Kevin Costner is typical Kevin Costner in 3 Days. You never hate him, but it could be anyone else playing the role and you’d be just as apathetic.
There are times when even eye-candy Amber Heard can’t save your movie. In fact, I think her presence only hurts projects. Her Vivi character is the biggest conundrum of them all. Why she uses Renner to fulfill missions, when he collapses before completing any of them, is unbelievable. Also, she only shows up to wear different wigs and pose in her latest Trinity cosplay. Her character makes even less sense when you see her at Langley as a demure CIA agent and then all of a sudden, she is suddenly Lady Gaga in the next scene.
In the end, as bad and sloppy as this movie is, it could have been marketable and watchable if it had a significant amount of action. Sadly, it spends too much time trying to sell us on the fact that Renner is superdad. I don’t buy it and neither should you. Skip this one please.