Ethan Hawke brings a weary authenticity to the part of a hired assassin in “24 Hours to Live,” a red-blooded shoot’em-up set in South Africa with a little more visual panache than most movies of its ilk.
A widowed ex-Marine on hiatus from his post-service gig at a nefarious private military outfit, Travis (Hawke) is pulled back in by fellow soldier-turned-contractor (Paul Anderson) to take out a whistleblower before he gives a deposition against the company they work for, Red Mountain. The target’s protected, however, by a sharp-shooting, Hong Kong-based Interpol officer named Lin (Xu Qin) who puts fatal holes in Travis, until Red Mountain resurrects him on the operating table using secretly researched, experimental medical technology that give him an extra day of life. Only this time, Travis’ loyalties have shifted.
This “DOA” meets “John Wick” scenario is crisply photographed B-movie junk directed by ex-stuntman, former second-unit director Brian Smrz like a man out to prove how muscular, violent action is done in the age of spatial chaos. There’s some reasonably ambitious choreography to a lot of the physicality and camerawork, and until it devolves into testosterone-drenched, operatic silliness, the mix of bullets, blood and banter is dumb fun.
And Hawke, seasoned enough to know what a genre piece requires, gives himself a fighting chance at successfully merging his believably human charm with aggro cinema’s requirements, like the two-gun, outstretched arms stance. He’s no clock-puncher with the material, and that’s admirable.
‘24 Hours to Live’
Rating: R, for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood