If you can forgive John Lyde and Matthew Reese their lack of resources, then “The Eleventh Hour” is not a bad way to spend 90 minutes. It’s actually a very good action film, and had the duo been in possession of, say, 10% of your average Hollywood budget, they could have produced something special. Alas, the (lack of) budget is a major source of constraint for the duo, and so instead of a globe-hopping thriller about an ex-Navy SEAL who returns home shattered and broken, only to have his past come back to grab him by the throat and send him off on an assassination run, we instead have a film set in an unnamed Midwestern town where, it would appear, running gunfights that last the better part of the day don’t get reported.
“The Eleventh Hour” stars Matthew Reese as Michael Adams, a former Navy SEAL who, during a mission in North Korea to free some Japanese hostages, is taken captive and left behind, believed dead by his squad. Fast-forward to 5 years later, and Michael is back in the States, but nowhere near his old self. His marriage to uber hot redhead Rachel (Jennifer Klekas) has broken down, and Michael sees a shrink on a regular basis to help him get over his torture-filled past at the hands of the North Korean. Alas, our hero’s past soon resurfaces when the same North Korean General (Scott Chun) who administered those not-so-nice prison visits from Michael’s captive days show up to force Michael to kill a visiting Senator (K. Danor Gerald).
As leverage, the General has implanted a small explosive device in the skull of Michael’s beloved Rachel, and will remote detonate the boom-boom maker unless he takes out his target. To further complicate matters, the target is one Mason Chambers, Michael’s former Navy SEALs commanding officer, and the man who led that ill-fated mission five years ago. Once Chambers’ Chief of Staff gets wind of the assassination plot and Michael’s name surfaces, the politico sends a never-ending supply of muscled goons to take Michael out. What’s a soldier suffering from a crazy amount of PTSD to do? Bust some heads, break some legs, and go on the run, of course. Luckily for Michael, running from death squads tend to bring one closer to one’s estranged soulmate, so there’s that.
“The Eleventh Hour” moves at a very fast clip, and most of the 90 minutes of running time is taken up with Michael and Rachel on the run from nameless gunmen. Luckily for our hero and his plucky damsel-in-distress, their town is not a particularly nosy one, so even though Michael has gotten into fights with a squad of North Korean goons in ski masks in broad daylight, in the middle of a neighborhood street, no one calls the cops, because after the North Koreans are done giving Michael his assignment they toss him back out on the street next to his car, which is right where he left it. Later, a long gunfight in broad daylight that takes place from one end of town to the next goes unnoticed. I’m not saying people in this town just don’t seem to pay attention, but I am saying I’d like to know where it is so I can go grab myself a couple of stereos.
Lack of curious law-enforcement notwithstanding, “The Eleventh Hour” moves at such a breezy clip that you probably won’t worry too much about plot holes. (Really? The U.S. has issues with the North Koreans kidnapping Japanese citizens? And everyone with a cellphone in this movie who isn’t Michael or Rachel is a North Korean sleeper agent?) To be sure, the film has issues, but that’s more the fault of a lack of resources rather than creativity. Writer/director John Lynd is already ahead of the curve thanks to a more than capable action star in Matthew Reese. Yes, if I looked like that without my shirt on, I’d spend as much of the movie going shirtless as possible, too. Reese also knows how to fight, which allows Lyde to shoot some nice (and for a change, easy to follow) hand-to-hand combat. Let’s put it this way: I can believe Matthew Reese can fight; don’t even bother trying to convince me Matt Damon can.
Although, yes, Lyde does rely too much on the staccato style that has become in-fashion nowadays. I don’t so much mind that the cameraman seems to be on Ritalin during the action scenes (it actually helps sell the intensity of the fights), but does that same cameraman really need to shake his camera so much during the talking head scenes? Still, to give him credit, Lyde is smart enough to capture the carefully orchestrated fights with a certain amount of clarity and coherence. Yes, you can follow the action, with only the occasional long fights thrown in there for effect. Much of the action is of the fast and one-and-done variety unless the situation calls for otherwise. There are some great close-quarter fights here, including a pretty brutal elevator showdown. And truth be told, that should be “The Eleventh Hour’s” main selling point – it has fights, and pretty damn good ones at that.
The above positive is thanks to a leading man who knows his way around a fight scene, so the editors don’t have to edit the fights to within an inch of their lives. You won’t have to try to guess whose fist is punching whose face in “The Eleventh Hour”. Of course, the trade-off is that you get nameless stuntmen as bad guys, some more believable than others. Working opposite Reese’s strong silent type is Jennifer Klekas. She’s convincing in the part, but maybe I’m just infatuated with ravishing redheads, a bill that Klekas more than fits. I’m not sure if K. Danor Gerald’s Mason Chambers, a young, charismatic black politician is supposed to be a cinematic version of you-know-who, though his politics sure doesn’t sound like he hails from Chicago. Gerald looks way too young for the role, not that that’s a particularly important point.
Certainly I’m not telling you that “The Eleventh Hour” has anything new to offer the genre, as you’ve no doubt seen a film like it, with a variation of this same plot many times before, including all those “Bourne” films. Could it have been more innovative? Sure, why not. Then again, I could be thinner and have better reflexes, but what’s that got to do with anything? Point is, “The Eleventh Hour” makes do with what it has on hand (an understanding neighborhood, for one) and manages to exceed my expectations. It’s a good action movie, plain and simple, and makes me curious to see what Lyde and Reese could do with a bigger budget.
John Lyde (director) / John Lyde (screenplay)
CAST: Jennifer Klekas … Rachel Adams
Matthew Reese … Michael Adams
David Kranig … Larry Stewart
Kevin Lyde … Heche
Scott Chun … General Kun
K. Danor Gerald … Mason Chambers
Michelle Money … Sharon Wilson