3 Days to Kill (2014)

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Director: McG

Writers: Adi Hasak, Luc Besson

Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen

Rating: ★★

3 Days to Kill, which got its UK released over the weekend, didn’t make the explosive impact it aimed to have despite a well-known cast and crew. Writer Luc Besson who contributed greatly to both the Transporter and Taken franchises, alongside McG a well-known TV director made up a well-supported personnel which also included an aging Kevin Costner. The film follows a very stereotyped action-genre, and whilst being completely predictable, its balance of action and drama was misjudged and left for a very dull running time which seemed to be further dragged from some poor comedy attempts and characters.

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a life-time international spy, earning high stakes for killing dangerous men; however he is matched with a bigger fight when he is told a terminal illness means he has a maximum of three months to live. Retiring from the CIA he decides to reunite with his estranged wife and daughter (Connie Nielsen, Hailee Steinfeld) in an attempt to build a closer relationship before it’s too late. However he is roped into doing one last mission, finishing off his previous assignments by hunting down the world’s most ruthless terrorist with the prize of obtaining a possible cure for his illness, but trying to rekindle a connection with his teenage daughter could be his toughest test after he is left to look after her for three days for the first time in ten years whilst his wife is out of town.

3 Days to Kill is a film we’ve all seen time and time before, and if I’m honest we will probably see another one just like it in a few more months’ time. If it had a simple premise it would be Die Hard meets Taken with hints of Big Daddy, and the latter simply puts the nail in the coffin and says it all. Costner’s Ethan is very much based on Liam Neeson’s famous Taken protagonist, and no surprise either as the writer of both is involved; a deep husky voice, tough-cookie attitude, a soft spot for his daughter, and a bunch of angry eastern Europeans which get in the way of his fathering nature all make up 3 Days to Kill which is only an iconic “I have a certain set of skills speech” away from being a hidden and lost draft for Taken. It then has classic Die Hard elements, bad Russians, big explosions, crazy stunts all captioned with so very bad comedy lines that only Bruce and Die Hard can get away with, whilst in terms of Big Daddy, Ethan and his daughter, Zooey, have some rather out-of-place one-to-ones of how to ride a bike, deal with bad hair days and boyfriend issues.

It is not only so predictable and somewhat lazy, but for me 3 Days a Kill has a really misplaced story highlighted by a very bad balance between fast-paced action and slow-burning drama. It seems to be a classical action release as we ease into the opening half-hour, but as we soon move on I was completely lost and was too busy focusing on Ethan and Zooey having bonding time on some fair-ground swings I forgot completely about the mission to kill this so-called lethal terrorist. If I’m honest I also think Ethan himself got confused as only an occasional frisky meeting with his boss in a strip club interrupted his usual bike riding, dancing and hot chocolate drinking routine. When the predictable and overused link brought both plots back into one for the final sequences, a really anticlimactic final sequence unravelled, which left more questions than it did answers.

Kevin Costner’s only fault was that he wasn’t Liam Neeson, for a role which was obviously based on the Irishmen; however Costner was great and deserves a lot of credit; he played a very good mix between a hard cold hitman, to the not so hard comedy dad. The rest of the cast however were not poor but neither great; whilst Amber Heard who played Ethan’s boss “Vivi” although executing her character well, was by far the most annoyingly written character I have witnessed in a long while as she attempted to play a cool, cold, and brutal woman.

McG direction was nothing too stand-out, however the few action scenes that did occur were handled well whilst the effects on Ethan’s hallucinations was the only other highlight. 3 Days to Kill wasn’t helped either by its soundtrack which apart from a funny inclusion, (well the first few times at least) of a certain teenage ringtone, was largely out of place although of course, that does match the story.

I guess for me 3 Days to Kill was largely disappointing, it achieves it aims very well, becoming a very template action film with a more drama-like story, however it just wasn’t what I wanted, and for me what I wanted was some much needed change to this tired genre. Although you could label writer Luc Besson as slightly lazy, the cast and crew are no more than good. I suppose 3 Days to Kill is something which needs to be taken with a light-hearted approach so that it can be enjoyed, despite being fairly entertaining and having its fun moments, It wasn’t to my liking and something I won’t be going back to for a second viewing, unless it’s to warn everyone else off.

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22 Jump Street (2014)

Genre: Comedy, Action, Crime

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Writers: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman, Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube

Rating:★★★★

22 Jump Street was a release I was anticipating after enjoying it’s refreshing and hilarious prequel, 21 Jump Street, however there was a part of me which was nervous, a degree of doubt crept in telling me that this was going to be a sequel which shames all what came before it, however I was wrong. A very post-modern comedy, one which doesn’t take it self seriously, recognises its potential flaws and mocks them until they turn into positives is exactly what this film achieves and is about. A bro-mance relationship between duo Tatum and Hill once again provided wonders, whilst the many writers and the duo directors provided the genius touch to make 22 Jump Street a laugh-out-loud, entertaining comedy rollercoaster which is definitely worth seeing.

At the end of the 2012 hit, 21 Jump Street, Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson barks “This time, you’re going to college” and that’s exactly what 22 Jump Street revolves around. The film starts with a “previously on…” flashback which reminds us what we loved so much about its prequel whilst also mocking how the film has been based on a TV series, in which becomes the first of many references which laughs at and mocks itself.

Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) once again fail to be real policemen on real cases, and since they look far too old to go back to high-school they find themselves at college doing the same mission, in the same way, all over again; find the drug dealer, find the drugs; stop the drugs, “save kids’ lives”.  As they join MC State College it soon appears how Jenko seems to fit in more than Schmidt once again putting pressure on their partnership, just as we’ve seen before. However this time it’s different, there are no rules or boundaries, ink-squirting octopuses and amazingly bad Mexican accents. Jenko becomes a football-hero jock whilst Schmidt becomes an art-geek but as they seem to be running in circles with the case and they are at risk of failing as their budget runs low, both their relationship and the case seems stronger than ever.

The thing which makes 22 Jump Street stand out for me is its ability to mock itself but at the same time make it a real positive by being very funny. Watching an interview with Tatum and Hill it seemed clear that this was their aim, to create a film which notices how bad it could be and how bad other films are. In one scene Jenko having a conversation with Captain Dickson says, “So you’re telling me, it’s going to be exactly the same as before but cost twice as much?”, referencing the film itself something I couldn’t help but laugh at. Schmidt when walking into the new office says “wow, this building like a big cool cube of Ice” whilst directly speaking to Ice Cube himself, whilst the extra-added special ending (which I won’t ruin) sums up the brilliance, wit and light-hearted approach taken by the directors and host of writers.

The comedy which this film brings is great, matching its prequel which I was really impressed and pleased by. The opening sequence, which will be familiar from the trailer, kicks things off with a big comedy bang, whilst 22 Jump Street then continues with a host of other hilarious scenes, one of my favourites being Ice Cube’s shock realisation. Although not always being greatly funny, I feel there was always something to laugh at in each scene and even each frame but it felt very natural and flowing, something adding to the viewing experience. Lacking the refreshing element which was found before, is replaced by the self-reflection and mockery, whilst Ice Cube seemed to play a much more prominent role and the constant references to its prequel tied-together a well-written and comedic screenplay.

Channing Tatum’s and Jonah Hill’s relationship within the film is fantastic and completely natural, being one of If not the, best comedy relationships I’ve seen in a while really adding again to the overall greatness of 22 Jump Street. Ice Cube’s greater involvement as mentioned added something funnier and different, whilst the other characters all seemed to slot and fit in well.

There was so much to love about 22 Jump Street but it did have some flaws and annoying elements that brought it down a notch or two. Some scenes seemed overly long or dragged-out, not with the comedy but with touchy scenes meant to be a bit more serious, however I just wanted it to end and move back onto the funnier stuff. The character of Mercedes, a key role in the case, was completely annoying and frustrating, with annoying dialogue, actions and even facial expression, making a really hate-filled character.

22 Jump Street is a film which needs to be seen for a really fun-filled laughing experience which almost everyone can enjoy and relate to in some aspects. Everything which was successful with 21 Jump Street was transferred and reflected here, self-mockery, great writing, acting and overall comedy makes for a hard to hate comedy release which I couldn’t help but enjoy.

“We Jump Street, and we ’bout to jump in yo ass.  Jenko: Mmmm-hmmm. Schmidt: Right in the crack.” It’s a Must-See.