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24 Hours to Live movie review: Life/Off

Ethan Hawk has 24 Hours to Live
Ethan Hawke has 24 Hours to Live

24 Hours to Live reminds me of the kinds of movies I used to get excited about as a teenage cinephile. Sure, there were franchises that had me on name alone, or the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but my favorites were when an idea was so good I just had to see it.

Bruce Willis versus terrorists in a building in Die Hard, the bus that couldn’t slow down in Speed or literally switching faces in Face/Off were some of those must sees. Likewise, if you told me there was a movie about a guy who comes back to life for 24 hours, I’d have to see that. Now there is.

Travis (Ethan Hawke) is a hit man who has to come off a hiatus for one big job, but he gets killed on the mission. So they bring him back with this groundbreaking new procedure, but they’ve only perfected it for 24 hours.

Ethan Hawke - 24 Hours to Live
Ethan Hawke in action in 24 Hours to Live

Like Face/Off, the resurrection procedure is the only fictional thing in the movie. The hook is: What if this were possible, but we took it seriously?

Also like the ‘80s and ‘90s movies, 24 Hours to Live isn’t a character drama about Travis’s last day. It’s about all the thrilling violence he’s involved with before he dies a second time.

24 Hours to Live also sports practical action like they did in the ‘90s. It may be on a smaller scale then Face/Off or True Lies but these days a little bit stands out against green screen CGI movies, or shakycam hodgepodges.

Travis’s death is a clear action scene. He uses a moment to take cover but his target rolls under the car and gets the better of him. These are simple beats but they flow together to build momentum and and intensity.

Xu Qing in 24 Hours to Live
Xu Qing in 24 Hours to Live

Little details make standard action scenes stand out. Travis is holding a hostage as he escapes through shipping containers and she grabs the ridges of the containers. We’ve seen dozens of action scenes in shipyards but that’s a unique touch.

The car chase are real cars driving through the city or an African village. It’s real and tangible.

Hawke is badass. Travis has no time for civilians when he’s on a mission, and he smokes out spooks following him pretty easily. He can fight in close quarters believably. In the climax he double guns it, like they all did post John Woo.

If it were made 20 years ago, 24 Hours to Live would be a summer action movie. Now that those are dominated by superheroes, we get high quality action movies like this in the privacy of our own homes on VOD.

But if you still want that ‘90s summer movie theatrical experience, it’s in theaters Dec. 1 too!


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