Gangbangers and the Venezuelan health-care system do full-on battle in "The Zero Hour," co-writer/director Diego Velasco's overheated debut actioner, which mixes salty social commentary with heavy-handed dramatics.

Gangbangers and the Venezuelan health-care system do full-on battle in “The Zero Hour,” co-writer/director Diego Velasco’s overheated debut actioner, which mixes salty social commentary with heavy-handed dramatics. Frantically edited as if the filmmakers, like many of pic’s characters, had a gun to their heads, this is at least one Venezuelan film that owes its existence less to TV than to Tony Scott and “Dog Day Afternoon.” Pic’s $3.5 million B.O. haul is a local record, and its Los Angeles Latino fest audience award points to commercial hopes in theatrical and vid.

During a national hospital workers strike in 1996, gang leader La Parca (hip-hop star Ruben Zapata, aka “Zapata 666″) tries to rush a seriously wounded pregnant woman named Lady Di (Amanda Key) to get medical care, and ends up at a hospital where his fellow thugs take patients and staff hostage. The lone doctor on call, Covo (Erich Wildpret), is forced to handle birthing chores, first in the back of a getaway car and then in an operating room. But as the hostage drama turns into a media circus, political undercurrents and soap operatics rise to the surface.

The Zero Hour

Venezuela

Production

A Cinematografica Blancica release of an Open Studios presentation of a Factor RH production in association with Anonimo Studio/CNAC. (International sales: Hollywood Studios Intl., Beverly Hills.) Produced by Carolina Paiz, Rodolfo Cova. Executive producers, Sergio Aguero. Directed by Diego Velasco. Screenplay, Velasco, Carolina Paiz.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Luis Otero Prada; editor, Otto Scheuren; music, Freddy Sheinfeld, Gabriel Velasco; music supervisors, Jose Luis Pardo, Luis Lange; production designer, Marcelo Pont Verges; costume designer, Patricia Busquets. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Aug. 15, 2011. (In Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.) Running time: 102 MIN.

Cast

With: Ruben Zapata, Amanda Key, Laureano Olivarez, Erich Wildpret, Marisa Roman, Alejandro Furth, Albi de Abreu, Steve Wilcox, Mascioli Zapata, Beatriz Vazquez, Rolando Padilla, Ana Maria Simon

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