England put out its share of cool movies in the 90s, films like Trainspotting or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Films like these are the equivalents of the "lad's mags:" Funny, violent, and filled with guys doing what guys do.
24 Hours in London tries so desperately to be that "cool" film, but instead falls flat in nearly every imaginable manner.
Martha witnesses a mass gang execution, then the killing of all the other witnesses (herself excluded, as she hides under a dead body) in a London park. Now Christian (Gary Olsen) and his group of , as the packaging says, "hip henchmen" have to kill her while she sits protected under the watchful eyes of the London police.
The first of many problems with 24 Hours in London is the script. Writer/director Alexander Finbow puts the most stilted dialogue in the mouths of the characters, as each one takes time out at some point in the movie to explain their exact motivation. All that was missing was a giant neon sign at the bottom of the screen, blinking the word "exposition."
The acting performances are exactly that – performances. For the most part, the actors spend their time acting out the words and putting the appropriate face on for their meaning, like some sort of commedia dell'arte takeoff. The only person who approaches believable is Olsen, and it's not for what he does so much as what he doesn't do.
Finally, the violence in the film is both unnecessary and unimaginatively staged. The difference between the violence in a film like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and this is that in Lock, Stock the gore and the reactions to it are underplayed to the point of being unrealistic. That's why the violence there can be considered "hip" – we don't consider it a real threat. But in almost every case in 24 Hours in London, the violence is played for real, and then it's not funny.
The lone example of well-played violence with that ironic distance is in the hotel. Without giving the plot away, four men are hunting for the room of their target. One guy falls down. The leader is mad at him for falling down. Cut to a dead body – it's one of the four men. Now the leader is mad at the klutz for killing one of his own. Then they move on.
There's no sadness. The guy's intestine isn't splattered against the wall. There are no screams or noises of pain – in fact, it is violence rendered painless. That was funny. But the rest of the violence is too much for even the hardest heart to consider light. That's the kind of touch missing from Finbow's direction.
The lone bright spot in the film is the soundtrack. While it's omnipresence can become tiresome, the music itself really helps drive the pace of the movie, even if the film eventually just drives itself off a cliff.
24 Hours in London looks like a very low-budget production on video; there are print scratches and flakes throughout the film. More troublesome is the transfer – IMDB claims that the film was shot on 35 mm at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but the DVD release is in full-frame. It's easy to tell at times, because characters do tend to slide off frame in some shots.
A run of the mill 2.0 audio track is included. The dialogue separates from the constant background music well enough, but there's very little range.
In the end, 24 Hours in London just tries too hard. Its actors try to hard to act, the writer tries to hard to cram every motivation into the dialogue instead of trusting the story and the direction tries too hard to push the violence. The combination makes it an easy film to skip.