Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In the name of the father

McG is trying. I will give him that.

McG is trying to make a movie that will somehow garner him some respect, but it ain't happening with 3 Days to Kill. (Too bad he diverted off the path to respect he was on with the wonderful We Are Marshall.)

3 Days is actually a slightly older version -- as in, skewing toward an older audience -- of his most recent movie, This Means War. In both films, jolly spy antics are interspersed with jolly domestic antics -- something that's supposed to be ironic, even on the 20th anniversary of True Lies. And to be honest, it wasn't that good back when the overrated True Lies did it.

But if I wanted to pinpoint the mustiest story element in this overblown, all-over-the-place action-comedy-drama, it would be this:

It's yet another movie where a neglected child refers to his or her father by his first name for the entire movie, only finally switching to calling him "Dad" in the supposedly emotional finale.

That's an incredibly reductive way of signposting the improvements in a strained relationship between estranged parent and offspring, but just think of the number of movies that do it. (You'll have to do the thinking, in fact, because I actually can't conjure another example as I sit here, since it's not a plot detail that tends to stand out in the memory after you've finished watching the movie.)

And it seems to always be the dad getting this treatment. It could be either a son or a daughter, but it's always the distant dad who is called by his first name. Maybe that's because mothers don't tend to run out on their children, I don't know.

3 Days to Kill is so all about this, in fact, that Halee Steinfeld's character uses Kevin Costner's character's first name -- Ethan -- in practically every sentence she speaks to him. "Ethan, you were never there for me." "Ethan, why were you always traveling?" "You can't buy my love with a bike, Ethan." That kind of thing.

And though I was falling asleep as I watched the last 15 minutes of the movie the other night, the next night I went back and watched them again, just to be sure that Steinfeld does indeed deliver the goods on the second half of the transaction.

Yep: "Come inside, Dad's going to make us hot chocolate."

Moment of pleased surprise from Costner. Moment of acknowledgment and recognition from Steinfeld.

But because this movie in particular, and its director in general, are so unsubtle, we have to immediately get two more "Dad"s in consecutive sentences, just to drive the point home: "Is Dad a badass?" she asks her mother as they sit around inside, apparently waiting for him to make this hot chocolate. "Is Dad going to stick around this time?"

Oh sorry, did I just spoil the ending of 3 Days to Kill for you?

Just thank me that you now don't have to pay for a rental.


Nick Prigge said...

In spite of my positive review, I can't really fault your logic. Particularly in regards to the whole Dad/Ethan business. That really is such an overplayed device.

For me, I think of the scene where he's teaching her to dance. I remember in that moment asking if myself if the movie was REALLY being serious? I think it WAS being serious and, yet, I sort of tricked myself into believing that it was winking at me.

Well, Amber Heard was winking. I firmly believe that. She knew where she was and what she was doing.

Derek Armstrong said...

Amber Heard was utterly ridiculous. I'm still deciding if it was in a good way or not. The weird thing about her character is that at the beginning, they made her seem like a good employee just doing her duty, but then she just starts to vamp wildly out of nowhere. I suppose that's what I mean when I call this movie "all over the place."