This being a Besson script and production, it's also about car chases and epic shootouts, torture played for sadistic laughs, Paris locations and Peugeot product placement.
Besson, who morphed into a producer after "The Professional" and before "The Transporter," gives Costner the full Liam Neeson-in-"Taken" treatment, cashing in on a career of cool in a movie that moves almost fast enough to keep us from noticing how scruffy, discomfiting and absurdly over-the-top the whole thing is.
Costner plays Ethan, a veteran CIA agent diagnosed with cancer. But his new control agent, a vamp named Vivi, played to the stiletto-heeled hilt by Amber Heard, wants him to finish one last massacre, taking out a nuclear arms dealer and his associates in the City of Light.
The carrot? She has an experimental drug that might give Ethan more time. And that could mean more time with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and the daughter he barely knows, played by "True Grit" teen Hailee Steinfeld. They live in Paris. The girl doesn't know what dad does for a living or that he's dying. She's a teen. She probably wouldn't care: "You might want to take something for that cough. It's really annoying."
McG ("Charlie's Angels," "We Are Marshall") stamps his signature on Besson's Euro-action vision with running gags: Dad keeps trying to get his rebellious teen to ride this cool purple bike he brought her. Her ring tone on his phone is "I Love It," which goes off just as he's about to rip a guy's armpit hair out with duct tape. Everybody's always trying to high-five Ethan, and the French, Germans and others he runs into keep calling him "Cowboy."
Ethan's always stopping the torture to ask one underworld guy (Marc Andreoni, funny) how to cope, what to do, how "to balance work and family."
Heard — all lipstick and lingerie, long eyelashes and leather wear — has little to do here, something of a waste. Steinfeld's Zoey is a bit of a drama queen but not a caricature of one. She commits one transgression after another, which Ethan seems loath to punish and unable to rein in.
Besson co-wrote the script, and he works in shots at absentee parents, lazy French cops and a legal system that allows cute African squatters more rights to Ethan's apartment than he has. But that turns out to be a warm and fuzzy cul-de-sac, one of many in this movie, which veers from shocking shootouts to rank sentiment.
Ethan's illness is forgotten for long stretches, but Costner, a hacking, weathered study in wrinkles and violence, never lets on that the whole affair is more of a lark than "Taken" ever was. A canny touch is the old-fashioned split-screen opening credits, scored to the old R&B tune "Ole Man Trouble." It fits. A tone-deaf touch? Having father teach daughter to dance to "Make It With You." Seriously?
Daft and sloppy as it is, "3 Days" rarely fails to entertain. From the bike-riding lessons on Montmartre to dopey interrogation of the Italian "accountant," interrupted for a marinara sauce recipe, it's all part and parcel of the madness of Besson's "From Paris with Love," filtered through McG and slapping a new stamp of "cool" on aging Oscar-winner Costner.
"3 Days to Kill" 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language
Running time: 1:53