If you have ‘3 Days to Kill,’ it’s best to check out other film options

I guess the best thing you can say about the new action movie “3 Days to Kill,” starring Kevin Costner as a grizzled old CIA hitman living in Paris, is that the 59-year-old actor has more charm and better comic timing now than Bruce Willis.

Costner is essentially playing the same over-the-hill, reluctant-but-badass gun-toting hero that Willis has been playing for years, and in “3 Days to Kill,” he’s even saddled with something more challenging than killing bad guys with names like The Albino and The Wolf — keeping a teenage daughter out of trouble. And despite a ludicrous plot and abrupt tonal shifts, Costner actually makes it work sometimes.

Speaking of plot, get a load of this: Costner’s retired agent finds out he has terminal brain cancer, so he reunites with his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and wife (Connie Nielsen) to make amends. But he agrees to stay on the job when a sexy young agent from America who just walked out of a Marilyn Manson video (Amber Heard) offers him a comically oversized syringe in a foam-lined briefcase. You see, this unnamed “experimental drug” will somehow extend his life, while also racking his mind with crippling hallucinogenic headaches at the most inopportune moments.

It’s easier to accept ridiculous plots like this when the ride itself is entertaining and distracting enough, but “3 Days to Kill,” directed by the slick and hollow McG (“Charlie’s Angels”), grinds to a halt every time Costner isn’t onscreen. Heard in particular has grossly miscalculated her dead-serious portrayal of the red-lipstick, stiletto-heeled handler in a role that could have been light and fun. Marc Andreoni, on the other hand, is right on the money as an underworld limo service owner who gives Costner fatherly advice when he’s not being thrown in the trunk of his car.

Producer/writer Luc Besson‘s French production company EuropaCorp has consistently demonstrated for more than a decade that they know how to churn out formulaic, mid-size budget action movies shot in Europe. “3 Days to Kill” is in the “Taken” mold for sure, but with a sillier dash of humor a la Besson’s recent mob-family-undercover misfire “The Family.” It’s a decidedly mediocre effort, with exactly one memorable action scene, and when it pushes too hard into sentimental territory, it feels completely unearned. Let’s hope for the sake of Costner (who recently had high-profile supporting turns in “Man of Steel” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”) that better material is on the horizon.

In recent years, the Academy Awards have packaged together the year’s Oscar-nominated short films into feature-length packages and sent them out for a brief run in theaters. It’s a rare chance to see short-format standout work from all over the world, and Liberty Hall is showing packages from the live-action and animated film categories through Thursday.

Highlights in the animated program include “Get a Horse!,” which is the odds-on favorite to win. A combination of traditional hand-drawn and computer animation, this new Mickey Mouse adventure from Disney features archival voice recordings of Walt Disney and approximates vintage 1928 character designs.
Also featured is “Room on the Broom,” based on a beloved children’s book about a witch who lets various animals ride on her broom, and featuring voice work from British funnymen Simon Pegg and Rob Brydon.
The live-action shorts feature another U.K. production,“The Voorman Problem,” starring Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit”) as a prison psychiatrist who examines a patient (Tom Hollander) who believes that he is a God — and that he created the world nine days ago.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Lawrence Arts Center, Footprints presents “Blackmail,” a 1929 film from master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, originally released in both a sound version and a little-seen silent version.
Besides having the opportunity to see an early work from Hitch on the big screen, you’ll also get the chance to experience the rare silent version of the film the way audiences back in the ’20s did — with live accompaniment from musicians in the same room. The stellar five-piece chamber group the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will no doubt amp up the thrills in “Blackmail,” which famously ends in a dramatic chase that leads to the domed roof of the British Museum.

Also not to be missed: Liberty Hall’s Film Church series continues at 7 p.m. Sunday night with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in Terrence Malick‘s outstanding debut film, the beautiful and disturbing “Badlands” from 1973.
Malick is known for his haunting widescreen images, and with “Badlands,” a masterwork of poetic imagery and directionless angst, it’s almost as if the visionary writer/director was sprung from obscurity fully formed.