Trailer Face-Off: 3 Days to Kill vs. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Published January 9, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: 3 Days to Kill vs. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,  two Kevin Costner films centering on covert agents as they struggle to maintain normalcy in their personal lives.

PremiseBoth films are cookie-cutter action blockbusters, which isn’t surprising. Production companies still believe that an action movie led by a strong male lead, with a hint of foreign espionage and a female love interest (and apparently Kevin Costner) will always do well at the box office. 3 Days to Kill follows a distant father and Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) who, upon trying to retire, discovers that he’s been infected by a virus that will kill him within 78 hours. His only hope: to work another assignment for the Agency in exchange for a cure. Shadow Recruit has a decidedly more sophisticated plot. Chris Pine plays the titular CIA analyst, originally envisioned by Tom Clancy, and steps into the shoes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck before him. This time around, Jack Ryan accidentally uncovers a Russian terrorist plot and gets promoted to field agent in the process. Though the plot of Shadow Recruit seems like less of a guns-and-muscles Jason Statham movie than 3 Days to Kill, it is not an adaptation of one of Clancy’s books. Rather, Shadow Recruit is an original screenplay written by Adam Cozad and David Koepp. Even without the strength of Clancy’s plotline behind it though, Shadow Recruit doesn’t rely on a conveniently timed virus to drive the film.Advantage: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 

CastLike most things, the cast of 3 Days to Kill is neither all good nor all bad. On the one hand, Hailee Steinfeld appears for a mere 20 seconds of the trailer as Costner’s confused daughter, and immediately grabs our attention. On the other hand, Amber Heard, who plays Costner’s half-flirty, half-hardass Agency boss, delivers cringe-worthy lines like “That’s the job. You have three days to kill Ethan.” As for Costner himself: it seems the former Robin Hood was having Liam Neeson envy, as, in addition to the leading role in 3 Days to Kill, he’s also playing Jack Ryan’s boss in Shadow Recruit. Supporting Pine and Costner are Keira Knightley (who plays Pine’s girlfriend) and Colm Feore. Kenneth Branagh, who is also directing the film, will play the evil Russian (obviously) villain complete with a moderately suspect Russian accent.Advantage: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director3 Days to Kill director McG has Charlie’s Angels and We Are Marshall under his belt, but his recent films have verged on horrendous (This Means War). His experience with the Angels franchise proves that he can do shamelessly cheesy action with a side of comedy well, but there’s no girl-power trio deconstructing action stereotypes for the common good here. Branagh’s résumé ranges from Shakespeare-goes-to-Hollywood to blockbusters like Thor and Iron Man 2.Advantage: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

The Overbearing BossIn 3 Days to Kill, Amber Heard’s semi-villainess hold’s Costner’s well-being hostage. In Shadow Recruit, Costner flips roles and plays Chris Pine’s cold boss, William Harper. Jack Ryan complains that Harper has misled him: the desk job he was promised has turned into a field job, with lots of people trying to kill him. Dangerous? Yes. Kind of awesome promotion? Yes. We’d all prefer an unwanted promotion to an employer who literally infects you with a malignant disease so that they can prevent you from retiring.Advantage: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Costner AppealCostner switches between cocky (3 Days) and cranky (Jack Ryan). We prefer him cocky.Advantage: 3 Days to Kill

Filming LocationsIn classic Bond form, these action films wrap a recycled plot and tired stereotype of masculinity in spectacular international vistas. 3 Days to Kill was shot mainly in Paris and Belgrade, while Shadow Recruit filmed in Moscow, Montreal, on Wall Street, and all over the UK. With the multimillion dollar Jack Ryan franchise behind it, it’s likely that Shadow Recruit had plenty of funding behind it, but London’s cityscapes and the Senate House Library that Christopher Nolan made famous have been all over every big-budget movie in the past year. Time to see some of Belgrade.Advantage: 3 Days to Kill

The VerdictThere’s an appeal to rooting for the underfunded and underhyped, but at the end of the day, a movie’s not a one-man show, and with the rare exception of Steinfeld, that seems to be what Costner is working with in 3 Days to Kill. Shadow Recruit is more polished, has a better cast, and ultimately seems like the more reliable entertainment for an expenditure of $15 and two hours of your time. Either way, though, Costner wins.Winner: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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