Year Released: 2014
Directed by: McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Eriq Ebounay
(PG-13, 100 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspens
CIA operative Kevin Costner is halfway between Sean Connery’s brutally efficient James Bond and Michael Caine’s wheezy 80-year-old vigilante Harry Brown. Then throw in the concerned dad part from Liam Neeson’s surprise 2009 hit Taken and you've just about got Ethan Renner.
Yet, strangely enough, Costner makes the film his own. The legendary charm shines through the hollow eyes, the lined face, and the perennial 3-day stubble. And he somehow persuades the audience to come along for a ride on this epic adventure that even he cannot take seriously. Because if you cannot suspend your disbelief, or better yet, hermetically seal it in a lock box, the film is not going to work.
Costner’s Ethan Renner has fallen down on the job–literally, that is, keeling over just as he’s chased down his latest target, the ultra evil Albino. It turns out Ethan is terminally ill, so with just months to live, he returns to Paris to reconcile with his estranged wife and daughter.
Just as he begins to wheedle his way back into their frozen hearts, a CIA agent offers him a possible cure, but he must return to the life his wife so hates, earning back his life by taking others.
Vivi (Austin’s own Amber Heard), the agent who becomes his handler, is a trip and a half; the blonde bombshell who emerges in Paris hardly recognizable from the meek mousy brown-haired bureaucrat we first see in Langley. It’s as if she has modeled herself after the cartoon creation Jessica–"I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”–Rabbit.
But Ethan is having none of her over the top seduction efforts. It’s hard enough coping with Zoey, his teenage daughter played by Hailee Steinfeld. It seems Zoey has turned in her True Grit (Yaller Bread with Pintos) /Mattie Ross righteous clarity for a valley girl whine and shrug, Paris style. The fresh tuna her Dad fetches from the market is “toxic with mercury,” while his persistent cough, the one we all know comes from his cancer stricken lungs, “…is really annoying,” according to Zoey, who in all fairness, has not yet been told about her father’s condition.
The action is fast paced and, like Renner himself, ruthlessly efficient. Ethan “…does James Bond’s job in half the time,” according to my better half, who loved every over the top minute of this “badass” flick.
The car chases on the Paris streets make Bullitt and the French Connection (French Pizza) scenes tame by comparison.
And Ethan, a lethal talent who, even floating in and out of consciousness, can still kneecap the Albino, cannot rid himself of the African squatters ensconced in his empty Paris apartment like a swarm of happy bees taking over an abandoned hive. Nor can he, or anyone for that matter, deal with the smiling inadequacy of the French police who insist that they can do nothing to get the squatters out for several months, and that if Ethan throws them out himself, he will be breaking the law. And as only the French can, they make no apologies for their bureaucratic morass, indeed they even celebrate it, all the while cheering on their favorite hockey team on the small television perched behind the counter.
This action thriller is a sure cure for any ultra serious-social-conscience-tugging Oscar contenders in the spotlight now. Save this guilty pleasure as a post Oscar chaser to be downed only after you have watched the vacuous celebrities in their garish gowns chronicle their own dysfunctional parodies of life at Academy Awards ceremonies not far away. Then see 3 Days to Kill to wash away any bitter after taste.
And speaking of bitter after tastes, there won’t be any with this delightful French recipe for Grilled Niçoise Tuna Steaks. A dish even Zoey could not resist.