24 Hours to Live, the second feature film from Brian Smrz, is an exhilarating action thriller starring Ethan Hawke, Paul Anderson, and Liam Cunningham. Taking inspiration from the recent wave of pulpy action thrillers, 24 Hours to Live falls somewhere in with adrenaline-fueled revenge films like John Wick and Crank.
Travis Conrad (Ethan Hawke) is a world-weary assassin, dragged out for one last assignment by his old employers. After being killed, Hawke is resurrected using an experimental procedure which grants him an extra 24 Hours to complete his assignment or turn on the company he works for.
Considering Smrz's near-40 years of stunt work, it's not a surprise that 24 Hours to Live's key selling point is well-executed action. Set pieces are big and neatly orchestrated whereas the smaller shoot outs pack a mean punch thanks to energetic camera work and some surprisingly solid, unapologetic, CGI blood. Kudos to whoever put so much emphasis on collateral damage because nothing says deadly violence like shattering glass and exploding scenery. It gives the film a real tension in the heat of the moment.
Hawke, an unlikely action star, picks up the scene with confidence and dedication. Supporting him are a formidable band of stars; from the veteran coolness of Rutger Hauer (whimsical and wasted on a beach, no less) to the hard-nosed villainy of Liam Cunningham, it’s a great team. Stand out support comes from Qing Xu who proves to be just as resourceful and deadly as Hawke if just a little cooler.
When it’s labouring Travis' trauma or trying to spin drama from a predictable twist, 24 Hours to Live can be really dull. It should have stuck with high octane nonsense fun as opposed to losing its adrenaline with overworked drama elements. When Smrz throws fully loaded Travis at a group of unsuspecting bad guys it revels in destruction and slick action sequences. There's a real casual approach to stunts and set pieces which is refreshing but at the same time, its a really drab looking film given style by swift execution and a decent score from Tyler Bates. In the end, it’s a decent enough ride, but it doesn't surpass its influences.
If you can forgive preposterous plots and heavy-handed retribution narratives, then give this a shot. Otherwise, its pulpy heart could prove too silly for straight thriller fans and not pulpy enough for those who take their action on the crazy side.
24 HOURS TO LIVE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN SMRZ / SCREENPLAY: ZACH DEAN / STARRING: PAUL ANDERSON, ETHAN HAWKE, RUTGER HAUER, LAIM CUNNINGHAM / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 26TH