24 HOURS TO LIVE
Director: Brian Smrz
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Qing Xu, Paul Anderson, Tyrone Keogh, Liam Cunningham, Rutger Hauer
MPAA Rating: (for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some drug use)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 12/1/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | November 30, 2017
One comes to see a lot of silly things after watching enough movies, but there's something especially silly about how the filmmakers have visualized the central gimmick of 24 Hours to Live. From the title, the conceit should be obvious: At a certain point in the story, our protagonist is left with only 24 hours to live.
A couple of things are worth nothing: This is a specific deadline, and it's established by a medical procedure that involves a potent cocktail of drugs. In theory, then, there's no way around itóno negotiating, no delaying, no avoiding. Let's assume that it makes senseóthat the doctors have figured out how long it takes before any given body succumbs to the drug overload of the mixture and that they have determined it down to the second. As unlikely as that scenario may seem, let's afford screenwriters Jim McClain, Ron Mita, and Zach Dean that much. Let's grant them the premise, even if it doesn't mean much in terms of the plot and means a lot less in terms of the characters.
It's a ticking clock. That's fair and simple enough, right? Well, the movie has a literal ticking clock, implanted within the arm of the protagonist, counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds that he has to live.
This makes no sense on any level, because whom does it benefit? It benefits no one, really, since the doctors should know how much time is left, the people who need the patient could just ask the doctors, and the patient isn't supposed to be in any position to know his or her fate, since anyone who receives this treatment is essentially expendable. Every appearance of the digital readout is worth a hearty laugh of disbelief, and it doesn't help that the movie isn't exactly consistent on the issue of time.
The man who eventually receives that digital timer in his arm is Travis Conrad (Ethan Hawke), a mercenary with a private military company whose wife and son were killed a year ago. He has been on hiatus since then, fishing with his father-in-law Frank (Rutger Hauer) in Florida.
Meanwhile, in southern Africa, an Interpol agent named Lin (Qing Xu) is transporting a whistleblower within that private military company to give a deposition on human rights violations that the company has committed. The transport is ambushed outside South Africa, but she and Keith (Tyrone Keogh), the whistleblower, escape. Travis' friend and co-mercenary Jim (Paul Anderson) approaches him with assignment: Kill the whistleblower before the information he possesses brings down the company.
Everything turns when Lin shoots and kills Travis while he's attempting to find Keith's location. He awakens in a tiny operating room, revived by a team of doctors so that he can give the company the whistleblower's location. After he does, the company tries to kill him. Travis escapes and, to get back at his employers, sets off to save the people he was supposed to kill. He has less than 24 hours in which to do it, before the drugs that resurrected him kill him.
The clock on his arm ticks away the time before he dies. He starts hallucinating visions of his wife and son, in between flashbacks of the dirty work he did as a hired killer. He continues to kill, obviously. A lot of people are shot, during firefights and chases, in graphic detail (There's lots of blood, and at least once, we get a close-up of a henchman's head exploding from an exit wound).
That's about the whole of the movie, which practically dismisses the countdown to Travis' death by eliminating hours of his time as he goes from one place to another, even though every stop is within Cape Town or the surrounding area. There are, then, essentially four stops along the way, and save for one, which iterates the point that Travis' family died, all of them are violent action sequences: a shootout that becomes a car chase, another shootout that becomes another car chase, and a final siege on the company's headquarters, which begins with a car plowing through the building.
Hawke makes for a solid, wounded, and mournful action hero, although there's nothing more to his character than a contradictory desire to stop being violent because of his past while using violence to achieve that end. It's all about the gimmick, and 24 Hours to Live doesn't even buy into that with much conviction.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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