‘Hours’ shows that Paul Walker was only getting better

Paul Walker gave one of his last performances as a father struggling to save his baby in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in "Hours." Credit: Pantelion Films
Paul Walker gave one of his last performances as a father struggling to save his baby in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in “Hours.”
Credit: Pantelion Films

Director: Eric Heisserer
Stars: Paul Walker, a baby
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Early in “Hours,” star Paul Walker gets so worked up he yells at a doctor. It’s not a pretty sight — not the screaming itself but the actual performance. Walker was a limited actor, which is not to say a bad one. Volcanic emotional outbursts — with spittle — were not among his talents. He did a few things very well, and not the things that attract awards or attention. (He was also cartoonishly handsome, which is not his fault.)

The rest of “Hours” is a handy showcase of the things Walker could do, which is to say play convincingly normal and convincingly freaked-out. He’s Nolan, whose wife (Genesis Rodriguez) dies during childbirth. The newborn is alive, though, and right in time for Hurricane Katrina to descend upon their New Orleans hospital. The power is knocked out and the building is emptied of everyone, it seems, but Walker and his baby.

Walker clearly intended this to be his chance to prove he was more than a rent-a-hunk who lucked into a Frankenstein franchise from which he once tried to decamp. It’s almost a one-man showcase — his contribution to the rash of one-person survival tales this year. “Hours” is nowhere near the vicinity of “Gravity” or “All is Lost,” and Walker is no Sandra Bullock of Robert Redford. For one thing, he talks too much, usually to himself. He can try too hard to prove himself. But more often he’s actually just right. The need to show off, which marred his turn in the 2005 whatzit “Running Scared,” usually disappears, he relaxes and suddenly he seems like an actor who could only have gotten better.

Is there a film beyond Walker? “Hours” doesn’t have the money to do Katrina right, but it tends to recognize its limitations. It largely hunkers indoors, inside a certainly too calm hospital. Walker gets a few unfriendly visitors, but probably not enough considering the setting. Usually tk’s only problem is keeping the incubator powered with a hand-pump generator, which leads to a fair amount of disbelief, to say nothing of monotony. Even for a small, intimate, modest film, it needs more than it has. But don’t be surprised if you feel more for Walker beyond the unfortunate circumstances that took him away in real life.


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