The Film: La Hora Cero (2010)
The Principles: Diego Velasco (Writer/Director). Zapata 666, Amanda Key, Erich Wildpret, Laureano Olivares
The Premise: A street thug/assassin uses his gang to place an entire hospital under siege during labor strikes from doctors which turns the gangster into an unlikely hero for the people.
Is It Good: Yes. Not the best movie I have ever seen, but a very well executed action/thriller from a country normally not known for have a large film presence.
This movie capture parts of Caracas, Venezuela that most outsiders will never see or want to visit. The lead character is a thug that begins the movie bleeding from a gunshot and carrying a screaming, wounded pregnant woman down the steep steps and tight alleys of the barrios. When he gets to the bottom he steals a motorcycle, bungee ties his shoulders to the injured mother to be and instructs the other nearby thugs to escort them instead of extracting revenge on whoever must have shot him. The first 5 minutes establish a lot of the harshness we will be subject two over the 100 minute film.
The movie is based during a real life 24 hour medical strike that took place on December 26th, 1996. Apparently, when health providers in the public sector feel they aren’t paid enough, they stop treating patients, no matter how critical of a situation it is. If you are wealthy enough to afford private clinics, you need not worry as they don’t strike if you have the money. Our thugs eventually wind up at a private clinic without money but use human currency instead to convince the staff they can help or wind up needing help.
The film takes a lot of twists and turns, some of them expected and some of them not so much. The violence is plentiful and raw, media attention and political corruption also get touched upon, and nobody comes away being a good saintly person at the end of the day. It also involves a delivery scene bordering on crazy and creates an unseen pain that nobody wants to imagine and will succeed in haunting you long after the film ends.
Is It Worth A Look: Yes. It doesn’t have a big budget, but it doesn’t need it. It caters to its own pacing, making the action beats kind of unique and often leaves you wondering if they aren’t nearing the end (I actually checked the remaining time halfway through as I thought most of the plot variations were nearing resolution). It’s not without issues as the second in command played by Laureano Olivares, who annoyingly talks like he has a voice box. The doctor played by Erich Wildpret remained unlikeable due to his lack of emotional response which hurt as he was also a main character with a large arc.
Random Anecdotes: La Hora Cero is the highest grossing film in Venezuela history. It also won 3 awards: Best Action Sequence Martial Arts Feature from the Action on Film International Film Festival, Audience Choice for director Diego Velasco from the Jackson Crossroads Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Film from the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.
Zapata 666 plays the lead whose name is Parca. Parca is a Spanish slang for the Grim Reaper, and he wears a black hood in a lot of the film to help bring him visually closer to his namesake. The actor was first a hip hop singer and has now acted in two films, both highly regarded in his native country. This was his first film as well as the directorial debut of Diego Velasco.
Ana Maria Simon plays a talk show host in the film and is the real life voice of E! in Venezuela. Not only was the celebrity a crossover, but many of the films thugs came from the actual barrios of Caracas, giving them more weight as their characters in the film.
Cinematic Soulmates: Mad City. City of God. Desparate Measures. Dog Day Afternoon. John Q.