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.