(Original Publication Date: November 9th, 2017) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: 24 Hours To Live
STARRING: Ethan Hawke, Qing Xu, Paul Anderson, Liam Cunningham and Rutger Hauer
Directed By: Brian Smrz
Synopsis: “After a mercenary dies in a brutal firefight, a new regenerative surgery gives him a second chance at life and another shot at redemption.”
Review: From the producers of the acclaimed action franchise John Wick and veteran stuntman turned director Brian Smrz comes an all-new ass kicking action-thriller titled 24 Hours to Live starring Ethan Hawke. Hawke stars as Travis Conrad, a mercenary who after leaving the service takes a job for the private military contractor Red Mountain. Working for the outfit, Travis does some very bad things and gets paid very well to look the other way and forget he has a conscience. After he learns that his wife and son were killed in retaliation for a job he did, Travis goes into a self-imposed exile where he spends his days drinking to forget with his father-in-law Frank (played by Hauer in a small cameo role). Travis is pulled back in by fellow Red Mountain operative and friend Jim Morrow (Anderson) to kill one of their own when they discover that he is going to expose a deep cover up by the firm in South Africa. Accepting the job, Conrad travels to South Africa, where he gets close to Interpol agent Lin (Xu) who is protecting the asset so he can find the safe house where they are holding him. When Lin discovers Conrad’s betrayal, a fierce firefight ensues where Lin shoots and kills Conrad. The only problem is, Travis doesn’t stay dead as he is brought back to life by a secret medical procedure that Red Mountain has perfected. It only keeps him alive for 24 hours as a failsafe is implemented. Once they have the info that Travis has, they tend to kill him permanently, so Travis makes a desperate bid to escape and expose Red Mountain for the true evil that they are. Now Travis has exactly 24 hours to execute his plan of revenge, save Lin and expose the cover up before he dies again. Red Mountain is about to learn that you never mess with a dead man with nothing to lose.
Ethan Hawke is no stranger to action-thrillers as the actor has starred in a few in the past which have included the remake Assault on Precinct 13, The Purge and Getaway but it is with 24 Hours to Live that Hawke cements himself as a true onscreen action hero playing the role of Merc turned walking dead man Travis Conrad. The film has a few similarities to John Wick as it comes to us from the producers of that franchise and just like veteran stuntman Chad Stahelski helmed those films, we now have veteran stuntman Brian Smrz (Hero Wanted) taking the reins on this one. And while Conrad dispatches the baddies via the head kill shot too that’s where the similarities end. Hawke has always been a dependable actor in his films, and I have always been a fan of his, but he now has graduated to full on ass kicker as he now has his own action franchise to run wild with. The movie starts with a bang and never lets up until the film fades to black. Hawke’s Travis Conrad takes a beating and a half, but he keeps on ticking in some truly exhilarating action set pieces. While there are numerous instances in the film where Hawke displays his action prowess, there are a few touching moments as well where Conrad sees his dead son. They are nice alternatives for the heavy doses of violence on hand.
Hawke is surrounded by some great co-stars too in the likes of Qing Xu (Looper, Flash Point) who plays Interpol agent Lin who is a quiet, reserved woman but can turn on the brute force in a second. Paul Anderson (The Revenant) is great as Conrad’s friend and former ally Jim Morrow who brings Conrad back only to betray him later. You never really know if he is bad or good until the very end. The always dependable Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) is perfect for the role of Wetzler who runs the evil Red Mountain company. He’s an evil man and you know it when he walks into a room. He will do anything to get what he wants and kill anyone in the process. The man loves money more than morals. The great Rutger Hauer is only in the film for a few scenes, but he makes an impact as Travis’ father-in-law Frank. Hauer is in exactly two scenes in the entire film but the second one is a real killer.
Now with a film like this, it is always about the action, and I am here to tell you that 24 Hours to Live delivers the action in spades. From the opening firefight to the climatic showdown, we are treated to some brutal and bloody shootouts. This film makes the case that when you have a veteran stuntman shooting the action, you are going to get the best there is. While it doesn’t have the budget of John Wick, it certainly makes do with what it has. There is no shaky cam or confusing edits here folks. The action is shot in a way that you can see every glorious second of the carnage that is on hand. Hawke excels in the action and looks like he has been doing these types of stunts for his entire career. The highlight of the film comes at its harrowing climax where Conrad creates a literal kill box and dispatches the baddies in brutal and bloody fashion. All the action is contained within one room and the devastation is breathtaking. Qing Xu has plenty of moments to shine as well in the action department and gives our leading man a run for his money on who is tougher. I wouldn’t mind seeing a spin-off film with her in it.
Director Brian Smrz has taken all of his experiences with stunt work and has crafted a solid action film. Being a stuntman definitely has its advantages because being involved in the physical aspects of action on film, men like Smrz know what the fans want in terms of mayhem. They know what angles to use, what looks best and how to make the star look like he’s a one-man army. With films like this and John Wick, I’m a definite advocate for more stuntmen turning into directors and that’s for damn sure. They just know what to do with the action plain and simple.
To sum it all up, Ethan Hawke gets in touch with his inner action hero and delivers a great performance that is not only exciting, but it is touching at the same time. The action is nothing less than top notch and it will leave you breathless. This is a spoiler free review, so I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I will tell you that it has a great ending and dare I say we might have another great action franchise on our hands. Support this film just like all the others and maybe we will see Hawke take aim once again! 24 Hours to Live delivers the action goods!
VERDICT: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
24 Hours To Live is now available to rent on VOD from Lionsgate Entertainment