Hours (2013) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and drug material
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez
Director: Eric Heisserer
Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
Review published December 10, 2013
For those still feeling morose after the untimely death of Paul Walker (Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five) around the same time of this film's release, Hours is coated with an even sadder context, knowing that his performance would go down as one of his last. It is also disheartening that his involvement in the film represents what might have been a turning point in his career into roles that don't cast him for his handsome looks or chiseled physique -- he shows to the naysayers that he has developed modest acting chops over the years. Not Oscar-worthy by any stretch, and he is in quite a bit over his head in a couple of scenes, but a respectable effort by Walker nonetheless. It's not entirely convincing, though, as Walker has a couple of rueful moments in which he laments the loss of his lover, only for him to seem relatively in good spirits in the very next scene; that's probably more likely the fault of the screenplay and first-time direction from Eric Heisserer (screenwriter for Final Destination 5 and the remake of The Thing) than Walker's choice to inconsistently emote.
Hours takes place during the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, starring Walker as Nolan (a name that recalls the city where it is set - New Orleans, Louisiana), who ends up getting trapped alone in an evacuated hospital where his pregnant wife Abigail (Rodriguez, Identity Thief) has just died in childbirth, while his preemie daughter must spend her first hours in a ventilator as the power goes out around the city due to the massive flooding and winds. Racked with grief and lack of food and sleep, matters turn worse when the battery-powered, crank-start generator that keeps the ventilator running will only keep a charge of three minutes and dwindling in her incubator. Meanwhile, there's no medical assistance in sight, as the food and drink are rare commodities, emergency assistance is a no-show, sleep is not an option, and armed looters enter the hospital looking for whatever they can scrounge up.
Other than Nolan trying to work out the complications of trying to keep his infant daughter alive while also trying to secure help when he only has a couple of minutes at a time before having to turn to crank to restore some life to the generator's battery, there's not much to the movie in terms of plot. It's a bit like 2012's The Impossible, except in a mostly one-location setting, and an amalgam of manufactured worst-case-scenario events unlikely to have happened to one man in a secluded building in a short amount of time.
Despite Walker's performance at the heart of the movie, the main problem with Hours as a full-length feature is that it doesn't present enough interesting developments to sustain its length. It runs at a fairly low budget, with most of the scenes of hurricane mayhem relegated to actual clips of news reports on Katrina that had been televised at the time. As this is mostly a one-man show, much of the dialogue is forced in by having Nolan voice his thoughts to the unconscious infant, and later, a rescue dog whom needs rescuing himself. It feels an unnatural convention, but without his internal anguish at his situation, there wouldn't be much of a movie. While Walker exceeds low expectations, the supporting cast is mostly unmemorable, save for the role of late wife Abby, who is only seen in a variety of flashbacks to the couple's early courtship and marriage.
Though it is a low-budget affair ($4 million, reportedly), there is still a good deal of room for emotional resonance (except what you bring in with you with knowledge of Walker's passing), and that's precisely what this film, which tugs at viewers' heartstrings often, lacks. This is a film that feels stretched out far beyond its story's capacity to sustain interest, along with dialogue that may elicit more chuckles than tears (at one point, Nolan speaks to the generator itself, "You are playing dirty, Mr. Machine!"). It crawls along and a glacial pace to its predictable ending, and outside of the not-so-revelatory notion that being in the middle of an anarchic state, as NOLA had been shortly after Katrina, sucks, there's not much to take with you. Unless you're a Paul Walker fan looking for an example of him branching out beyond typical action-movie fare for a rare stretch at an anguished dramatic performance, two hours is at least one too many to give for the scant offerings of Hours.
©2013 Vince Leo