3 DAYS TO KILL Not pictured: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves II: King of Thieves.

FEW FILMMAKERS have ever stuck to their guns like Luc Besson, who has made a seemingly endless supply of B-movie hay out of whisper-thin female assassins (La Femme Nikita, Colombiana), and grizzled parental revengers (Taken, The Transporter series). Writer-producer Besson's latest, 3 Days to Kill, takes his two favorite subjects and merrily glomps them together, along with, well, whatever may have passed by his window during the creative process. The result is a bewildering cross between agreeably retro action foolishness—a sinister albino henchman is introduced within the first two minutes—and lead-balloon comedic digressions. Whatever the hell it is, it isn't boring.

Kicking off with a reasonably coherent hotel shootout, the story follows a CIA badass (Kevin Costner) facing retirement after an ominous medical diagnosis. As he attempts to reconcile with his wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) in Paris, a mysterious femme fatale (Amber Heard) drags him back into the spy game. Director McG keeps things together for the first act, but then succumbs to the utterly random nature of the script, as a series of wacky stereotypes and errant stabs at symbolism wander onto the screen and then refuse to leave. When a girl's first tender kiss is juxtaposed with her father wiping out a roomful of goons, any last remnants of rational thought sputter out.

If the movie holds together at all (and I'm not suggesting that it does, really), it's thanks to Costner, who takes his character's world-weariness and hilariously cranks it up to 11, responding to even the most ludicrous Bessonisms with an air that suggests that he's somehow seen it before. Whether he's teaching his daughter to ride a bike, or zanily torturing someone with jumper cables, he keeps his grump gloriously on.