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24 HOURS TO LIVE: A Bad Movie, But A Fun One

24 Hours to Live may be riddled with plot holes and clichés, but thanks to a committed Ethan Hawke and some fun action, it's a decent time.

24 HOURS TO LIVE: A Bad Movie, But A Fun One

Let’s talk about Hawke. Ethan Hawke to be precise.

Collaborations with Richard Linklater like the Before Trilogy and Boyhood have earned him Academy Award nominations in both acting and writing. He’s appeared in iconic films like Dead Poet’s Society and Reality Bites. There was another Oscar nod for Training Day, as well as notable recent turns in Maudie, Born To Be Blue and Maggie’s Plan.

But then there was the critically mauled Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, and leading roles in ho-hum remakes like The Magnificent Seven and Assault On Precinct 13. Hawke also took the lead in the first film of two franchises (The Purge and Sinister) that made a lot of money but are often condemned for starting a particularly uncreative era of Hollywood horror.

Hawke is a hard man to pigeonhole. He doesn’t seem attached to any particular genre. He doesn’t always play the same character. He’s an actor capable of greatness who regularly stars in less-than-great films, the latest being 24 Hours to Live.


Hitman Travis (Ethan Hawke), has been ‘on hiatus’ from killing ever since the murder of his wife and son one year ago. An old friend (Paul Anderson) and an enormous payday lures him back in.

His employer is a shadowy organisation called Red Mountain, who are intent on disposing of Jeff (Aidan Whytock), a whistle-blower about to destroy the company. Travis must kill Jeff before his government hearing. This proves difficult thanks to Lin (Qing Xu), a member of his protection detail, who is mighty good with a gun.

24 HOURS TO LIVE: A Bad Movie, But A Fun One

source: Saban Films

Travis learn this the hard way after she kills him. Except that he doesn’t really die. Waking up with a timer in his arm, he discovers Red Mountain’s shady secret – they have been using humans as unwilling guinea pigs for life-lengthening experiments. He may have survived his death, but in less than twenty-four hours, the grim reaper will be upon him once more.

Now with a full comprehension of the extent of Red Mountain’s misdeeds, Travis joins up with Jeff and Lin in their mission to expose them. He may only have one day left alive, but he’s going to make it count.

A Riot Of Ridiculousness

If you read through that previous section, you will probably have grasped that 24 Hours to Live is completely and utterly ridiculous. Barely a scene goes by without a gaping plot hole. Very little makes sense; even those who usually have no trouble suspending their disbelief may find themselves struggling here.

The action is littered with logical infractions. The death clock in Travis’s arm causes him frequent hallucinations and yet the unafflicted Lin still lets him drive. Later, a nameless henchman finds some dynamite on the verge of exploding. He informs his villainous boss about it whilst standing still, seeming to have no realistation that he’s right beside that very same dynamite. Safe to say, it doesn’t end well for him.

Then there’s the very last scene. Well actually, it’s the very last shot. As, I suppose, it would be a spoiler to reveal its offense, I won’t describe it here. Just know that the film goes out joyfully riding the wave of ridiculousness that it has been surfing for the previous ninety minutes, and yet still manages to undercut itself at the last moment. It’s a flaming hot mess.

24 HOURS TO LIVE: A Bad Movie, But A Fun One

source: Saban Films

And what would a hot mess of an action movie be without an overabundance of clichés? 24 Hours to Live is brimming with them.

There’s Travis’s dead wife (Jenna Upton), seen in a series of angelic flashbacks that are perpetually used to portray the murdered spouses of vengeful men (see this list for more of these unfortunate females). A retired hit man called back into the game for ‘one last job’. The shadowy organisation named by combining a colour and an inanimate object. The fight scene in the strip club. The denouement on the beach. The bad guy with the British accent. An unexpectedly bad-ass older person (Rutger Hauer, who doesn’t quite graze five minutes of screen time).

Oh yes, and the music that plays over the closing credits is ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ (the Marilyn Manson version). It’s so on the nose, it’s almost physically painful.

Yet, Despite It All…

There’s no question that 24 Hours To Live is not a good movie. Between the rampant clichés and nonsensical plot developments, it’s more likely to cause unintentional laughter than intentional excitement.

And yet despite it all, there’s something endearing about it.

If the film receives any plaudits, then most of them should go to Ethan Hawke. Who knows why he chose this as his latest project; perhaps he was drawn to the exotic locations? Perhaps he wanted to meet Rutger Hauer? Whatever the reasons, he never once phones it in when he could have easily gotten away with it. He attacks his hackneyed character with his own special brand of weathered intensity, really trying to make you care. Sure, he rarely succeeds. But he visibly tries, and when you’re undergoing a ninety minute assault on your logic, that visible trying is something you appreciate.

24 HOURS TO LIVE: A Bad Movie, But A Fun One

source: Saban Films

24 Hours to Live may make little sense, but at least it looks nice. If you were watching it on mute you may even mistake it for a top-tier actioner. Cruising around three different continents, cinematographer Ben Notts adds an enjoyably smooth sheen to proceedings, and that makes it easier to digest some of the movie’s more preposterous moments.

The film is only Brian Smrz‘s second as director, but he’s been a stunt man in Hollywood for more than three decades. He knows how to shoot action, and fills his movie with it. The best action scene is the final one, where Travis, with minutes left on his life clock, barrels into the bad guy’s lair, intending to cause as much damage as he can with the time he has left. There are sprays of bullets and sprays of blood; regular explosions and explosions of viscera. It’s a bonkers sequence, but if you get that far, the chances are you’ll quite enjoy it. The madness of 24 Hours to Live is so pervasive that it’s easy to let it in, if you don’t keep your guard up. And where’s the fun in keeping your guard up?

24 Hours to Live: In Conclusion

24 Hours to Live is a bad movie. With a plot that shatters credulity, is packed with clichés, and completely undercuts itself in the closing moments, it’s a loud, ridiculous disaster.

But it’s hard to deny the film’s entertainment value. Aided immeasurably by a committed lead turn from Ethan Hawke, as the movie careens from one ludicrous event to another, you just don’t have the time to be bored. In a world filled with bloated action movies with slate-grey colour schemes and an unearned self-importance, there’s something to be said for one that is just entertaining, and nothing more. One to watch with your funniest friend and a big bag of popcorn.

Have you seen 24 Hours to Live? What did you think?

24 Hours to Live is released in the US on December 1st. For further release information, click here.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

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