Movie review

A violent '3 Days to Kill' falls off course

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Steelers Nation gets a shout-out in "3 Days to Kill."

Kevin Costner plays Ethan Renner, an ailing CIA operative who has returned to Paris after five years to reconnect with his estranged wife and, especially, his teenage daughter.

Ethan, talking to the girl's soccer-playing boyfriend, volunteers, "I'm from Pittsburgh, we play real football." The teen says, oh yes, American football, and Ethan corrects, "No, real football."

Maybe his Pittsburgh roots explain how he can survive being sacked, shot, nearly blown to bits and in more than one high-speed chase through the city streets.

'3 Days to Kill'

Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen.

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.

"3 Days to Kill," from the director known simply as McG, suffers from an identity crisis much as Ethan does. He's worked for the CIA for three decades, to the detriment of his personal life. Even his apartment in Paris has been taken over by a family of squatters.

In most movies, an operative decides to take on one final job before retiring. But here, Ethan is cut loose due to illness and lured back by a wild-card CIA spy (Amber Heard) who dangles some medical hope in exchange for his help in tracking and killing terrorists known as The Albino and The Wolf.

As she bluntly phrases it: "Kill or die."

The offer comes just as he finds himself looking after his daughter, Zoe (Hailee Steinfeld from "True Grit"), as his wife (Connie Nielsen) heads out of town. That means he's juggling cell phone calls from the teen or her school principal in between abductions or torture sessions or mass shootings.

And that is the problem.

Just as you're enjoying the domestic drama, with a sprinkling of comedy, it's time to switch over to the action thriller part of the movie menu. That is jarring, as if you had ducked out into the lobby and returned to the wrong auditorium playing another Kevin Costner film.

McG, working from a script by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, makes Paris come alive in matter-of-fact fashion. Oh, there's the Eiffel Tower in the background or "flying chairs" amusement attraction or sidewalk stalls with buckets of fresh-cut flowers or windowside tables at a picturesque cafe.

Mr. Costner, who comfortably moves between smaller parts as in "Man of Steel" and "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" and starring roles as here and in April's "Draft Day," tenderly connects with Hailee and Ms. Nielsen. He is capable of some remarkable feats of strength, given his age (59 earlier this year) and Ethan's health history.

Through no fault of her own, though, Ms. Heard seems as though she's dropped in from another, livelier project with wilder wigs, costumes, attitudes and characters.

"3 Days to Kill" is, like many other PG-13-rated movies, surprisingly violent but collapses under the weight of too many genres and coincidences, with or without an international accent .

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:

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