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.

Non-Stop (2014)

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writers: John W. Richardson, Ryan Engle, Christopher Roach

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy

Rating: ★★★★

Non Stop is the latest hard-hitting Liam Neeson action film to hit the screen and despite it feeling a bit like déjà vu, once again it and he impresses reaching high standards. A simple and common film scenario proves to be as intriguing as it is thrilling making for a very fast paced tense experience. Neeson gives a great solid performance and is supported well from the rest of the cast whilst horror fanatic director Collet-Sera changes his ways very well creating an entertaining rollercoaster which seems to achieve more than most typical action releases.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is getting ready to board British Aquatlantic Flight 10 to London as an Air Marshal whose main priority is the safety of his passengers.  Whilst mid-air and flying Mark gets a series of threatening texts demanding $150 million, if he fails to make the transaction to the off-shore account every twenty minutes a passenger will die. Marks is enraged and panicked, the sender has hacked into a private network and seems to know things he shouldn’t, such as how Marks was drinking a bottle of whisky in his SUV before he boarded. Marks’s worries are brushed aside by people in charge, but as he realises the hijacker is amongst the passengers he knows he has to keep everyone safe. Timer set and twenty minutes counting down, Marks alongside the very few passengers he trusts attempt to locate the hijacker and get to London safely.

Non Stop uses the very simple element of a countdown to keep us engaged but it works very well creating constant tension, excitement and mostly entertainment.  Although the concept is very basic it was one I thoroughly enjoyed, rarely am I as intrigued by a film especially generic action releases, but it kept me constantly guessing throughout as each individual passenger began to look suspicious.  Neeson’s character was also very good, eventually throughout the film and as situations started to get out of control we began to learn more about Bill Marks the alcoholic Air Marshal with his character becoming very in-depth and developed.  The only fault I can afflict upon Non Stop was its reasoning and references behind why the plane was being hijacked as I found it too on the nose and very un-needed. The most highlighting aspect however how the story was action packed with some excellence scenes, including a matrix mid-air gun catch and dive from Liam Neeson which is one to anticipate.

Liam Neeson more recently and especially after Taken seems to have a habit of playing the same character in films, such as in The Grey, Taken 2 and The Next Three Days, however this is due to his ability to play it so well and somewhat faultlessly.  Once again he portrays Bill Marks extremely well and his somewhat powerful emotional speech near the closing stages was very typical but good. Julianne Moore as Jen Summers was another stand-out amongst a very much faultless supporting cast. Moore’s character of Jen, a trusty passenger on the window seat next to Bill, was likewise in-depth and as an audience we fell for her emotional story as her character developed.  The acting was a real credit to what was some decent writing and especially well-written characters.

Non Stop is spot on when it comes to acting and overall writing. It also flourishes due to its pace which is no doubt down to Collet-Sera who usually focuses on making tense fast paced horrors. Collet-Sera’s direction really adds to the tension and thrills of Non Stop which again engages the audience. The film however doesn’t really evolve too much with effects or visual awe with most of it being very safe and average. The end scene too I felt wasn’t executed to its full potential in which should have been the climax to the whole entire film and the big wow factor whereas Bill Marks’s matrix dive and gun catch stole the part.

Although what seemed to be a typical action release Non Stop proved to be well above expectation and turned into a thrilling, exciting hour and half of entertainment. Although there are some small flaws, it shouldn’t down what is a well-made and thought about release which shows great acting and writing including Liam Neeson at what he does best. Non Stop is easily watchable and one of the most exciting and worthwhile action films in recent years.