Astana 2012: THE ZERO HOUR Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Parca is a bad man. There's no denying that. Brutal, violent, he's been running with gangs for most of his life and left more than one body in his wake. He's good at that part. Good enough that he's feared in the slums for his ruthless behavior. But 'most of his life' isn't all of his life and there was a time before all of this for Parca, a time when he was in love. And when the object of his affections is struck down in the cross fire during one of his own violent acts, there is nothing - literally nothing - that Parca won't due to save her. And if that means taking an entire medical clinic hostage, then so be it.

Set against the backdrop of an actual medical strike that shut down Venezuela's hospitals in 1996, Diego Velasco's The Zero Hour (La Hora Cero) begins as a brawny, 70s influenced action flick before twisting and reshaping itself into a violent hostage drama with a socially aware heart. Yes, amidst the blood there is a layer of social satire, Velasco making it clear that as bad a man as his protagonist very clearly is, there is a reason he has become so and plenty of blame to go around.

Venezualan musician / actor Zapata 666 is the heart of the movie as Parca, and both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. There's something undeniably primal about him, an energy and menace that makes his outbursts of violence compelling and disturbingly believable. But, both with his character and Zapata's performance, there is something almost too blunt about Parca, too lacking in subtlety. He struggles some in the quiet moments, the picture having difficulty bridging the action to the character moments that drive the back half of the film.

That said, keep a close eye on director and co-writer Diego Velasco. The man has an undeniable gift for staging action, the opening car chase and gun play sequences positively jumping off the screen. Velasco has a sharp eye for composition, a marked preference for keeping things real and gritty, and - along with editor Otto Scheuren - the ability to keep the pace crackling. Should Velasco choose to go all out with the action in some future project the results could be truly fearsome.
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