3 Days to Kill has no use for logic – it runs through it so an aging Kevin Costner can shoot more bullets and reconnect with his broken family. The film is ridiculous, a co-brainchild of action director McG and writer Luc Besson. That means shoot outs, physical violence, comedic interludes, and the French. Lots of French.
Mostly an excuse to shoot people dead, 3 Days invokes a nuclear policy. Archetypal bad guys have nukes, CIA agent Ethan Renner (Costner) must stop them. Yawn. That is until Besson’s scripting mangles this formula into a wily comedy, inter-playing family drama as Renner tries to reconnect with his wife and daughter. Insert Amber Heard in impossible leather outfits and Renner’s worsening cancer condition and 3 Days’ overwrought, packed in script takes quirky form.
McG’s crisp action is patchy if vivid. Explosively opening with building fireworks and a clever two-floor shoot-out, this feature slips into a seemingly random grocery store melee and frenetic car chase through London streets before fading out. Fitted between is Besson’s unconventional identification: Renner returns home to find refugees squatting in his place and without the legal recourse to evict them. It’s winter, so say the police. Bizarre, but effortlessly charming with Eriq Ebouaney as the illegal tenant’s patriarch.
Still there’s more, with Hailee Steinfeld and Connie Nielsen acting out the family part, Steinfeld a pesky teenager, Nielsen a worried wife (and mother). Wrapped into Renner’s CIA work, Steinfeld and Nielsen play to naivety, believing the male figure in their lives to have dropped his killer government connections. Humorous scenes dazzle with their nutty interruptions. Renner interrogates, his kin calls. In a chase, Nielsen calls. It’s a working father trope played to escalating extremes, where even soon-to-be torture victims join into the mobile phone frenzy.
Uneven tonalities either perk up this script or sink it depending on perspective, although the bravery of the mix & match is a reprieve from morose action. It’s colorful. 3 Days landed the MPAA PG-13 mark which this feature fits comfortably into, both for its comedy and sense of violence. An unrated cut finds the obligatory blood squibs seeping through white dress shirts along with a lusty strip club sequence which is uncomfortably out of place. Besson’s work is often top heavy with sweaty Jason Statham-esque romances, while this is surreal combined with the lurid, leather clad Amber Heard.
Such methodology warrants the, ‘not for everyone’ tag as 3 Days is distinctive and wholly unreal, but for the betterment of its action exploits. Energy and laughs build a lightweight good/evil paradigm which slumps over into the mix of family turmoil, if one thankfully built on strengthened relationships.
Opening chapters begin to cause squirming for HD aficionados, imagery plagued by murkiness and sour compression. Banding is unusually heavy and long shots flounder as they’re swarmed by thick artifacts. Skin is glossy with precision details lost behind a rut of whatever is leading to imagery faults. Fox’s AVC encode is fattened in terms of bitrate while the source Arri Alexa is a digital camera gem.
Then, it’s pick-up time. Tinkering in post lends a brutal contrast to some shots, but otherwise the fidelity begins to flood in. Close-ups are genuinely strong and carry oomph. Exceptional clarity is boosted by consistent sharpness, helping to portray the French location cinematography with splendid dimension.
Pesky teal will continue to prove bothersome in the scheme of color definition, the opening scenes especially dimmed by brutal blue hues. Despite the trees evident in the sequence, no pure green is allowed. Picking up with its narrative, monochrome tones are slowly eroded for splashes of additional heated oranges and pleasing exteriors. Flesh tones follow color timing inconsistencies and intent in a feature which never comes across as stable with its post-production corrections.
As called upon, those black levels will spark something superior, lending depth without grabbing shadow details. As stated, the countering contrast is not so nice. This is all contained in a noise-less production, focusing purely on pleasant clarity despite the misgivings in the opening chapter.
Audio mastering is spectacular when action is fully primed. Shoot-outs are graced with an unapologetic level of LFE, and grand explosions induce awe. Interior brawls love to shatter glass in multiple directions, whether windows or decorations. A late car chase ensures stereos are as active as the surrounds, with deep splits into each channel.
Usually, such mixes are set for perfection, while it’s wholly bizarre how flagrant 3 Days violates basic audio protocols with its dialog. A briefing which opens the film is terribly out of sync, enough to run an equipment check, but it appears to be dubbed… poorly. There is quite a bit of post recording here, and all of it wanders in quality. One conversation with Steinfeld and Costner outside of a school yard is so overdone in terms of its echo it’s as if the mix is malfunctioning. This is such a shame considering how flawless the action plays out.
EPKs are the source of these bonuses, from a 10-minute making of to a praise session for McG. Covert Operations is the only one of interest, interviewing a former CIA op about his life as part of the organization. Fox tacks on some trailers and sends the disc to retail.
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