If not for Paul Walker (seriously) and some disturbing kink, the beginning of the festival's homestretch would've been a drag.
Director: Eric Heisserer
Stars: Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez
Running time: 97 minutes
When you're looking for an actor to carry an entire movie, the obvious choice is…Paul Walker? Apparently that's what first-time director Eric Heisserer (whose previous screenwriting credits include Final Destination 5) thought as he sat down to cast his Hurricane Katrina-set thriller Hours. One would assume that Heisserer had seen some of Walker's prior work—whether it was Into the Blue, any one of the Fast & Furious films, or Takers—and still deemed him capable of leading a 97-minute movie solo. It's a good thing for Heisserer, then, that the Paul Walker he got is the same one who was unexpectedly impressive in the slept-on 2006 flick Running Scared.
The oft-dissed actor's biggest naysayers will have a difficult time finding much to chide Walker for in Hours, a frequently implausible but surprisingly captivating one-man show about a desperate man stuck inside an evacuated New Orleans hospital trying to keep his newborn baby daughter alive. His wife (Genesis Rodriguez, seen mostly in flashbacks) died during child birth, leaving him on his own even before the levees broke and everyone else hauled ass out of the building. Since his little girl is breathing through a boxed-in ventilator, moving her out with the rest of the patients would be fatal, thus pops has to keep cranking a lever to recharge a generator's battery every two minutes. His hope: Help will arrive before his own exhaustion causes his baby to die.
Hours has a few shades of I Am Legend—hell, a German Shepherd shows up at one point. And Heisserer repeatedly strains logic to maintain the story's lonely-fight-for-survival conceit, notably by expecting the audience to believe that there's only damn generator in the entire hospital. But—sorry, Walker haters—the writer-director's star steps up to the task of selling every melodramatic moment, genuinely tense turn, and idiotic plot device. He's, dare we say, full of range here, nailing sporadic bits of much-needed comic relief and forging a palpable love connection with the equally proficient Rodriguez in their few short scenes together.
As his character's situation worsens by the (pun intended) hour, a real sense of danger escalates. You actually want to see Walker pull it off. The same can't always be said about his law-breaking exploits with Vin Diesel.