Director: Brian Smrz
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Paul Anderson, Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham, Xu Qing
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 28 December 2017
Synopsis: “Travis Conrad” (Ethan Hawke) is a former elite soldier devastated over the recent tragic deaths of his wife and young son, when his old army buddy “Jim Morrow” (Paul Anderson) shows up with an offer he can't refuse. Morrow now works for a powerful and highly secretive private military contractor, Red Mountain, who hires Travis for an extremely dangerous ? but extremely lucrative ? assassination job, but everything goes wrong.
A bedraggled Ethan Hawke plays a hitman who is brought back from the dead and given an additional 24 hours to live in this disposable B-thriller from veteran stuntman Brian Smrz. Why bedraggled? Because the after-effects of the experimental procedure which his private military outfit Red Mountain had developed will degrade his faculties and leave him suffering from hallucinations, which in Hawke’s former elite soldier turned murky mercenary Travis Conrad’s case means having visions of his late son whom he feels guilty not being around for as much as he should have.
So rather than simply doing Red Mountain’s bidding, Travis decides to use that extra day of life to atone for his past missteps, turning against not just the company but also his old buddy/ colleague Jim Morrow (Paul Anderson) by coming to the rescue of his targets – company whistleblower Keith (Tyrone Keogh) and his Interpol protector agent Lin Bisset (Xu Qin). Keith had been assigned by Red Mountain to get rid of tens of civilians it had experimented on to develop its procedure, and is now willing to go on record to testify against the independent contractor, which explains why its head Wetzler (Liam Cunningham) is bent on doing whatever is necessary to prevent him from giving that testimony.
It’s a fairly complex setup for a series of vehicular chases and gunfights unfolding on the streets of South Africa where this was shot, but neither Smrz or the trio of writers to whom the script is credited to have any illusion just what their key demographic is here for – and in that regard, there is no doubt that the film does deliver. Highlights include two thrilling chases, one through the busy streets of downtown Cape Town and another through a shantytown, as well as the climactic showdown between Travis and a whole bunch of Red Mountain militia at their corporate headquarters which seems inspired by the sort of no-holds-barred style that the two ‘John Wick’ movies had turned into art.
On his part, Hawke brings just enough human charm to make us root for his anti-hero character. As much as he’s been in such genre pieces, Hawke doesn’t simply phone it in; rather, he injects both humanity and vulnerability into Travis, with just the right wryness to make the whole macho act less obtuse than it could otherwise have been. His Chinese co-star Xu isn’t given enough to do, but the two actors whom you probably want to see much more of are Cunningham and Rutger Hauer, the latter playing his father-in-law whom we see Travis bonding with on a beach in the Florida Keys at the start. Oh yes, Hauer has barely five minutes of screen time in total, but that one scene he has with Hawke at the beginning makes it almost seem as if this were striving to be an A-grade picture.
Alas, the pleasures here are ultimately in B-grade territory, so if you’re simply looking for some old-school action, then ’24 Hours to Live’ will no doubt be satisfying. Like we said earlier, it does make good use of the South African locations where it was filmed, and Smrz’s experience with choreography certainly ensures that the sequences here are slickly shot. Other than that, the fact that there are hardly any twists in the story mean that it is straight-up cat-and-mouse stuff from start to finish. At least it never does feel as long as its title suggests, and if you’re looking for some undemanding thrills in one and a half hours, you could frankly do a lot worse.
(No more - but no less - than a straight-up action thriller that delivers some well-shot vehicular chases and gunfights)
Review by Gabriel Chong