PLOT: A desperate father attempts to keep his infant daughter alive while Hurricane Katrina destroys everything around him.
Whenever a feature film takes on a real life tragedy it runs the risk of either falling deep into melodrama or just simply not having the emotional punch that it should. This is occasionally true for the new film HOURS, starring the late Paul Walker and Genesis Rodriguez. Yet there is something more to this personal story. Instead of offering up a “true story” that is bigger than it should be, this feature film from writer/director Eric Heisserer (writer of both A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET as well as THE THING remakes) chooses to tell a fictional account of a man trying to save his pre-mature baby as Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans around him.
For nearly the entire hour and forty minute or so running time, Walker is alone carrying the weight of this story on his shoulders. While he may not necessarily be the strongest actor for this type of drama he offers a sort of amiable charm as he tries desperately to keep his baby alive. This is serious stuff and while the intensity of the story is difficult to achieve, he damn sure tries his best. There is a real sense of an actor choosing a challenging role that he may not be ready for, yet he is going to give it his all. However, when he is playing off the beautiful and talented Genesis Rodriguez who portrays his wife [mostly in flashbacks], or the rescue dog he discovers, you really get a sense of honesty from his performance which you just can’t fake.
When we are introduced to Nolan and his wife Abigail (Walker and Rodriguez) she is being rushed into the hospital as he promises her everything will be okay. Of course being the film that this is everything is not okay. Their baby barely survives and is kept alive with the help of a ventilation machine. Sadly, the infant girl’s mother is not so lucky. Heisserer sets up the fact that the machine the distraught father’s child is on can’t be moved and is dependent on a power source so you know things are going to go wrong. Soon the hospital is being evacuated by patients and doctors alike, except of course for Nolan who must do all he can to get his daughter through this critical period.
The main problem with HOURS is the script itself. It is nearly impossible for Walker to make some of this work. Clearly this is a man with no training and nothing special about him to make for a hero so mistakes are bound to happen, but man does this guy make some bad choices. The script – written by Heisserer - sets up the rules carefully but it also stretches the plausibility of it all. With the only source of power being a hand crank battery charger, this poor father is forced to give it a go every three minutes and counting. Much of that time he spends talking to his little girl and telling her all about her mother all but ignoring the fact that he is going to be facing insurmountable odds. The dramatic factor of this works well enough however at some point he could have made a few wiser decisions. You could chalk it all up to how prepared would somebody really be in this situation, yet it becomes very frustrating with some of the choices made.
Aside from Nolan we are introduced to a doctor and a nurse who offer little help in the grand scheme of things. Not surprisingly during a natural disaster you are bound to have looters and dangerous types running around. When these guys do show up it feels as if they are straight out of a bad primetime cop show. The trouble-makers are paper thin cliché bad guys that hurt the pace of the film the second they show up. Thankfully I did want this to end well so it was easy to root for Nolan even with all his questionable actions and the lame villains. When he finally has to make a tough decision with a couple of these brutes it was fairly satisfying.
Visually speaking HOURS has a certain Indie charm which doesn’t hurt, if only the script was a little more plausible with less useless characters. Thankfully, Walker gives a good performance and is a charismatic good guy. The chemistry he shares with Rodriguez is terrific as these two played off of each other perfectly. While the script isn’t fleshed out nearly as much as it could have and the pacing is occasionally off, I found myself involved in his plight. There is promise here and if you are willing to suspend disbelief you could do far worse than this personified disaster flick with good intentions. On a side note, it is disheartening to see Paul Walker once again trying to better himself and take a risk knowing now that the best years of his career were yet to come.