Ethan Hawke’s character in this movie is no John Wick or Chev Chelios and this movie is certainly not Crank or John Wick(1 or 2). I mention these because this movie borrows from both movies, John Wick in amount of cinematic gun play and Crank in basically the entire plot premise and it executes on neither of them. The plot is summed up in one phrase and it happens to be the title, Ethan Hawke has 24 hours to live. In between gunshots the movie never really asks the question whether we care about this or not and if it had, I would have said, hell no, he should have died in Training Day so that Denzel Washingtons Alonzo could still be around to prove to King Kong that he ain’t got shit on him. Either way if the premise sounds familiar its because it is, Crank did the exact same thing except better. Crank was so over top, we had Statham using paddles on himself and public sex at a horse race, it did not take itself seriously. This movie plays the concept straight faced and it is as ridiculous as it sounds. We get scenes where pale old wimpy Hawke is headshotting everybody in his sight line, moments after waking up from what is essentially a complete heart transplant and being brought back to life, complete with 24 hours left arm timer for no discernible reason besides to act as an in-effective, all too intrusive suspense creator later in the movie. Like most time devices in movies, it becomes laughable quickly when 6 minutes of on screen time is actually 20 in the viewers world. If you don’t believe me, watch ” In Time” with Justin Timberlake and pay attention to amounts of times the characters shout out compared to their actions on screen.So plot wise the movie is a rehash, and then we get to the shooting a la John Wick.
Regardless of your view of “John Wick”, Keanu looks like he knows what he is doing and the shootouts are choreographed flawlessly. This film, not so much. Although there are some cool sequences, namely the part of one shootout where Xu Qing’s character is stuck on a little balcony with wooden framing and doors with two other characters, one of which gets roasted by machine gunfire that blows through the wood. A little bit of realism in a movie that otherwise resolves conflicts with incredibly coincidental timing or with everyone being dead. I spoke too soon, in said scene we proceed to see Qing’s character exit through a door below the balcony, she is shot at and inexplicably missed by Henchman on the balcony she just jumped from. This is presumably the same guy who just shot somebody through wood without being able to see them. Terrible shooting aside, Qing decides to walk backwards through an door opening( I’m not positive, but walking through a door backwards into a room where you have no idea what is in there is probably not a good tactical move) and the shot lets us see two henchman weapons raised right behind her. Oh no! Certain Doom! Nope, Ethan hawke appears from nowhere in the nick of time and rams both guys with a car, says some inane quip and they all act as if nothing just happened. In a paint by numbers action movie like this, sequences of just random dumb luck pull you further out of the story. Qing is demonstrated to have thick plot armor and Ethan Hawke is a skilled agent who relies mostly on great timing / luck, not skill. It is hard to care about already shallowly crafted characters, but when you know there is no real chance they die, then even a lackadaisical suspense item like an arm countdown clock accomplishes nothing.
Hawke being useless as an action hero aside, the movie just isn’t fun. It plays heavy themes of military commitment and regret for doing violent things for a job against shootouts where Ethan Hawke kills battalions of guys. *Spoiler Alert* at the end Ethan Hawke doesn’t kill his buddy because he is a dad and has a family? Hey Ethan, do you think some of the 40+ guys you killed throughout the movie weren’t secretly family men? Oh, so nameless henchmen can’t have a family, but ultra successful CEO of said murder-for-hire company gets sympathy for having a kid? Like the rest of the movie, Hawke takes himself and the role way to seriously and we get laughable moments where he goes from getting his ass-kicked to then simultaneously wielding two pistols and using said pistols to hold two separate people at gun point. Of course there is all of the multiple, boring gun fights leading up to this to firmly plant in the viewers brain that, yes Ethan Hawke is actually a bad ass. If you stay awake during said gun fights, this final moment with Hawke covered in a ridiculous amount of blood and holding pistols out with both arms like he is being crucified, breathing heavily, biceps blaring in his white tee is still over the top. The Jesus savior symbolism is so over the top. Hawke posed with both arms spread, wearing a white tee stained with blood and making a human cross before ultimately deciding to sacrifice himself is a little on the nose for me. It does make a fitting final scene for a movie that tries hard to be original and does its best to copy the formula of previous successful movies, but in the end its just another fill-in-the blank action movie.