A former soldier-turned-military contractor/freelance assassin Travis Conrad (Ethan Hawke) is brought back to life, in which he has only 24 hours to accomplish his mission.
Picture this: Ethan Hawke plays a freelance assassin. Try hard as he may, it’s hard to imagine him playing such a role where he happens to be an expert in guns and weaponry. Sure, he delivers convincing action-oriented roles in the past such as Training Day (2001), Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) and The Magnificent Seven (2016). But 24 Hours to Live is a whole new league. Hawke is neither Keanu Reeves seen in John Wick or even Liam Neeson in Taken. But he feels more at home playing a guilt-ridden individual torn with the death of his loved ones, as evidently seen in some of the melodramatic moments throughout the movie.
The story, which resembles of Crank meets John Wick, sure sounds intriguing. With a title like 24 Hours to Live, you would expect this movie has that pacey, race-against-the-clock kind of tone. Too bad this movie suffers from an irregular stop-and-start pace that often drags the overall momentum. Even after Hawke’s supposedly dead character is revived following an experimental medical procedure of some sorts that allows him to live for just 24 hours, the pace remains just as inconsistent. By the way, don’t bother with the logic behind the procedure. You just have to accept it as it is and suspend your disbelief.
Fortunately, director Brian Smrz displays better confidence in the action department. As a veteran stunt professional who coordinated popular action movies like Speed (1994), Face/Off (1997), Mission: Impossible II (2000) and Die Hard 4.0 (2007), he sure knows how to stage an action scene. For instance, the opening ambush scene and the car chase are vividly choreographed to engaging result. The only disappointment here is the third-act battle, which feels strangely anticlimactic.
As for the rest of the cast, Xu Qing fares better as the tough Interpol agent Lin Bisset while Paul Anderson brings decent supports as Travis’ military friend/assassin, Jim Morrow and so do Game of Thrones‘ Liam Cunningham as Travis’ ruthless boss, Wetzler. Finally, Rutger Hauer delivers a welcome but underused cameo appearance as Travis’ father-in-law.
Smrz definitely has a potential to become the next big action director in Hollywood. Now, if only he is given a more worthwhile script that matches his talent.