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See This/Skip That: From 3 Days to Kill to In Secret

02/21/2014 at 04:00 PM EST

Movie Reviews: 3 Days to Kill, In Secret, Wind Rises, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

As a CIA agent, Kevin Costner aims for a box-office bull’s-eye in 3 Days to Kill. But is the espionage thriller right on target?

Plus: Animation visionary Hayao Miyazaki unveils his supposed swan song, The Wind Rises, and Elizabeth Olsen goes for literate, period prestige in In Secret.

Here’s what to see and what to skip in theaters this weekend.

Skip This

3 Days to Kill
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It wouldn’t be so egregious that 3 Days to Kill is six different movies in one, if any of them were actually decent. As it is, the spy/action/terminal-illness/coming-of-age/cultural-exchange/family dramedy is such a misguided mess that not only does it fail to get where it’s going, I can’t even tell you where it’s coming from.

CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a capable clean-up man, until he’s diagnosed with terminal brain cancer shortly after a mission goes south. He packs it in for Paris, where his estranged wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen), lives with their daughter, Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). Since there’s a family of squatters living in his apartment, Renner bunks with his own clan, taking care of his daughter while Christine is on a business trip.

The wrinkle arrives in the slinky form of fellow agent Vivi (Amber Heard). The preposterously overbearing femme fatale has a proposition for Renner: She’ll provide him with a super-secret miracle cure for his cancer – if he’ll take care of a bad guy known as the Wolf (Richard Sammel). Don’t bother asking why the CIA suddenly thinks that now Renner is worth saving, since the answer doesn’t begin to make sense. The key here is that the cure has a nasty side effect, causing Renner to hallucinate then collapse whenever his heart rate rises. This proves most inconvenient for him at times that are all too convenient for the movie.

It doesn’t help Renner or the audience that while he’s on a convoluted hunt for the Wolf, the increasingly annoying Zoey runs wild, shrieking over nonsense, sneaking out to clubs and lying as a matter of course. Renner tries to cram in daddy-daughter growth moments between kills, at one point taking his kid for a sweet afternoon outing, while a man he’s tortured lies stashed in the trunk. The scene is meant to be funny, but it’s merely absurd.

Even ignoring the most egregious material, there isn’t much redeeming value in 3 Days to Kill, with action sequences we’ve all seen before, jokes that almost never land and even Costner looking like he’s had better days on a film set. He’s certainly had better moments onscreen.

Flip a Coin on This

In Secret
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Orphaned Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen) is trapped in a dismal marriage to her sickly cousin Camille (Harry Potter‘s Tom Felton) when she meets his libidinous childhood friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac). Naturally, an affair develops. What happens next, though, is most unnatural, with the lovers plotting a monstrous crime.

In Secret, based on the Emile Zola novel Thérèse Raquin, promises heat and spice, but delivers a bland brew of period melodrama. Jessica Lange is engaging as Madame Raquin, Camille’s mother, but even she isn’t quite grasping and spiteful enough to give the film needed oomph. Still, the performances are solid, with Olsen and Isaac exploring both sides of passion as Thérèse and Laurent face their true selves. The film may not be the most moving literary adaptation of late, but it hits its marks.

But See These

The Wind Rises
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