Star rating – 7/10
It’s time for the annual feast of Spanish and Latin American films courtesy of the Cornerhouse’s Viva! Festival. And the phrase, ‘high octane’, does not begin to cover the plot of my first taste of the action in the Venezuelan film ‘La Hora cero’ (Zero Hour). The first time I saw a film set in the suburbs of Caracas, ‘Secuestro Express’, (Kidnap Express) about 6 years ago, it was full on action, violence, with a large dose of social justice thrown in. And this latest offering from that country is in a very similar vein.
The basic plot is that a local gangster Parca, played by the intriguingly named actor Zapata 666, persuades his fellow gang members to take a pregnant and bleeding girl, who they do not recognise at all, to hospital in a convoy of motorbikes. But all the doctors are out on strike, demanding a wage rise, so they take over a nearby private hospital at gunpoint, take all the patients and staff hostage, and use them as a bargaining tool to get the medical treatment needed for the woman and her baby, who has by now been born in a taxi on the journey in.
The rest of the story line, or I should really say story lines, as this felt like about six films in one, gets very complicated and at times a bit convoluted. But it could never be called boring. It involves a beauty queen; a Governor who is hiding a secret; a police chief who wants to avoid getting caught up in the politics of it all and safeguard the lives of his officers; and a TV crew with their eye on a big break and the lure of Hollywood – to name but a few. All the characters have complex motives for their actions, with few totally bad or wholly good people involved. But they are all brilliantly no-nonsense Latino types who have absolutely no problem with saying what they mean and meaning what they say.
It’s thrilling, political, funny and very graphically violent. I can’t imagine anything like this being made in Britain. It may not do much for the Venezuelan Tourist Board, but it is a well acted, full on, and highly entertaining start to Viva!