It's the modern dilemma: how to balance work with family, get the job done, and still have time to share a meal with the wife and kid.
That's Ethan Renner's quandary in 3 Days to Kill, only it's slightly more complicated, given what he does for a living. Ethan, a 32-year CIA veteran played with a tough, scruffy, back-drawer charm by Kevin Costner, is a "cleaner" - an assassin.
And there's another snag: After an op gone wrong in Belgrade - a fiery shootout that leaves a team of agents dead and a hotel in smithereens - Ethan wakes up in a hospital to be told he has cancer, and, at best, five months to live.
Time to hang up the weapons and reconnect with his teenage daughter, Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld), and make peace with his estranged, ex-pat wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen). So it's off to Paris he goes - with a scarf around his neck and a hopelessly uncool dad look in his eyes. Zooey, of course, doesn't know what her father does - she just resents that he's never been there for her.
The domestic melodrama is interrupted by a killer blonde in stiletto heels. Amber Heard's Vivi is a CIA cohort with a tempting proposal: eliminate an international thug called the Wolf and Ethan can have an experimental drug that may prolong his life, and even fight off the Big C. He has three days to complete the task. Let the car chases, firefights, torture scenes, and explosions begin.
Also: His daughter's prom, and bike lessons around Montmartre.
Like Liam Neeson's Taken series (yes, a third one is in the works), Costner's 3 Days to Kill finds its absentee-dad action hero facing off against hordes of goons and gorillas - not to rescue his loved ones, but to prove himself to them, and maybe get a little extra quality time, too.
And this being a Luc Besson movie (Leon: The Professional, The Transporter) by way of McG (Charlie's Angels), the heavies have names such as the Albino, and comic relief comes in the least likely places - such as a toilet, where a duct-taped Italian working for the syndicate is asked for his marinara recipe.
He's more than happy to oblige.
3 Days to Kill **1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by McG. With Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, and Connie Nielsen. Distributed by Relativity Media.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters