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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsFamily Movie Review: Hours (PG-13)

Family Movie Review: Hours (PG-13)

I was a Walker fan anyway, but “Hours” branches him out of the essential, but somewhat background, role he played as Brian O’Conner in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. In those movies, he grew from a young, hotheaded thrill-seeker to a devoted family man, extremely loyal to his friends, wife, and child, frustrated with the hard line of the law but disgusted by the corruption lurking in plain sight. He and Vin Diesel were the core pair of those films, the best friends that included Walker was the straight man to Diesel’s more flashy character, Dominic Toretto. In “Hours,” Walker’s character, Nolan Hayes, is an O’Conner type, but with more chinks in his armor: He didn’t originally want his daughter; he’s shocked that his wife is gone and wishes he could trade her life for their child’s; he’s unsure of how to plan for the imminent Hurricane Katrina disaster. He’s capable of being a good man, but the potential hasn’t been tapped yet.

The plot is straightforward, really, even sparse: Hayes (Walker, of “Fast & Furious 6” and “Fast Five”) takes his wife, Abigail (Genesis Rodriguez, of “Identity Thief” and “The Last Stand”) to the hospital with stomach pains, and hours later his daughter is born five weeks premature and Abigail died in labor. With his daughter in an incubator because she can’t breathe on her own until 48 hours are up, Hayes is stuck in the hospital as Hurricane Katrina strikes, as the staff and patients are evacuated, and as the power goes out. A number of complications keep him in that space: The battery on the incubator is almost dead, meaning Hayes has to hand-pump it with a generator every three minutes so his daughter can keep breathing; the staff took all the food in the cafeteria, so Hayes knows better than to go searching for any; and his daughter’s saline drip needs to be replaced with a new bag every few hours. With no way out, Hayes’ only choice is to stay with his daughter, getting to know her and dealing with his grief over his wife’s death as the hurricane rages outside—and the city descends into chaos.

Overall, “Hours” is a remarkably contained film; there are fewer than 10 characters total, and Walker is in every shot, in every scene, interacting with all of them. There are no characters that have scenes on their own without him, and in that way, we’re with Hayes for every step of this journey: for the disgust at discovering his wife’s body haphazardly and disrespectfully dumped on the floor of the hospital morgue because the staff ran out of stretchers; for the muted joy of finding a dog in the hospital, a companion to keep his exhaustion at bay; and for his ultimate acceptance at his daughter’s survival, of her having a chance at life while his wife didn’t. Walker’s performance has a muted, shocked quality that gradually opens up as he tells his daughter about his wife, struggles to find a way out of the hospital, and eventually has to fight off marauders, and it’s good work overall. You’ll believe his emotions, even if the production quality and the writing of the film don’t nearly match his portrayal of Hayes.

Because the problems with “Hours” aren’t with Walker, but with other elements of director-writer’s Eric Heisserer’s film: the doctor who nonchalantly tells Hayes that his wife “bled out” while they’re just chatting casually in a hallway (not believable in the least); the flashbacks meant to establish Hayes’s and Abigail’s relationship that are shot in cheap-looking gold light and never really give insight as to their personalities (we never learn Nolan’s job, for instance, and Rodriguez’s performance is too plucky and aggressive to be charming); and a weird, tonally disjointed scene where Hayes has to change a diaper and does to plucky, childish background music.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that all the bad guys, all the bandits that Hayes has to fight off, are minorities. Threatening, drug-dealing, weapons-toting minorities, who fit into all the bad stereotypes perpetuated after Hurricane Katrina about what happened to New Orleans’ citizens when they were left to fend for themselves. It’s a cheap way to prey on our sympathies, when Walker had already done so much with his performance to get us on his character’s side.

Storytelling issues like those keep “Hours” from being a great film, but Walker’s performance is its best element. Other things work—how Heisserer builds our anxiety as Hayes checks every discarded, forgotten corpse before he finds his wife’s; how that three-minute battery life on the incubator becomes a time element that neither Hayes nor we can ignore—but Walker is the key here. Rest in peace, Paul Walker.

Enjoy reading this review? Check out our roundup of what other films are opening this week.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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