Film critics have been slow to warm to the recently released 3 Days in Havana. However, this reception should not discourage Cubaphiles (and those wanting to visit Cuba from the comfort of their Cineplex seats) from running -not walking- to the cinema to see it while they can. 3 Days in Havana is a three day down and dirty romp through the streets and sites of Havana that gives viewers an in-their-face taste of the city while entertaining them with some mighty fine acting along the way.
3 Days is a Canadian production written and directed by Gil Bellows and Tony Pantages and stars Bellows and Greg Wise. Cameo appearances along the way include those by Don McKellar (who does a comical and playful take on a French accent) as well as Phyllida Law in a scene set in the U.K. Christopher Heyerdahl delivers a convincing performance as an intimidating Canadian embassy official gone bad, while Greg Wise’s kinetic stint as Harry (seemingly fueled by cocaine and rum) evolves nicely as the film progresses.
The film follows Jack (as played by Gil Bellows- yes, you’ve seen him before- think Ally McBeal) who is an insurance executive headed to Havana for a conference. While en route he meets Rita, a mysterious woman (played by Rya Kihistedt) in an airport lounge, who is also on her way to Havana but for more nefarious reasons. Rita suggests to a glum Jack that he abandon the conference when he arrives and truly enjoy all that Havana offers.
Once in Havana Jack heeds her advice and stumbles around the city with his tourist map in hand. At the hotel bar Jack befriends Harry who, apparently, is a travel writer and whom offers to show Jack the “real Havana”. Jack hitches on for the ride and soon they find themselves sipping Cuba Libras literally in the middle of the empty pool at Meyer Lansky’s Havana legacy, The Rivera Hotel.
It soon becomes clear that Harry is not your typical travel writer and may have a hidden agenda that may involve an assassination of Latin American gun running kingpin (Francis Libby as played by John Cassini). And so Jack’s unexpected adventure begins.
Part of the real fun in seeing 3 Days in Havana is the role that Havana, the city, plays in the film. Those who have visited know it features crumbling architecture that, in other settings, may seem frightening. In Havana, however, that rundown state becomes as endearing as their underlying quality and European designs are infectious.
Jack and Harry ride bikes through beat up streets, take ‘Coco taxis’ to get to bars and revel like Mafiosos in vintage cars converted into cabs, along the Malecon. Harry takes Jack out for an evening on the town where the women are stunning (as they are in Havana) and more than affectionate with the out-of -towners (as they tend to be).
Part of the fun as a Cubaphile is to spot the various locations throughout the city where the movie was filmed. The Hotel National figures prominently giving viewers access not only to the hotel grounds but inside the rooms as well. Dropping into La Floridita is on the tour, of course. In Old Havana they see the tourist favorites such as some of the local personalities and the colorful dancers on stilts. But it does not stop there. Jack and Harry imbibe in a few pre-dinner cocktails at one of those neighborhood dark, corner bars lit by fifty-year-old florescent lights that you would never dare venture into yourself. No need. You have Harry and Jack as your own guides taking the viewer into the dark corners of the city.
So, in the end, 3 Days in Havana is exactly that, three days in Havana. The film viewer gets to visit Havana with Jack to experience all the city has to offer. If you are interested in such a tour (or a trip down memory lane) in the space of ninety minutes, go see this film! The fact that there is a story line connected to the visit, along with some masterful acting, is simply a bonus!
A.J. Twist is a Montreal travel writer who misses Havana.