Hours is Paul Walker's final gift
Paul Walker's demise makes his new film Hours especially poignant--as it was always intended to be. Hours is another of the genre films that Walker regularly appeared in and made distinctive. His specialty was the action film where stress defined personality through a character's approach to morality, the law, the universe. Hours, written and directed by Eric Heisserer (calming down from his horror film conventions), streamlines this premise to the personal action of Nolan Yates, Walker's role as a young widower who must hand-crank the generator of his newborn child's incubation/respiration unit when the hospital loses power during Hurricane Katrina.
Brad Pitt used Hurricane Katrina as a backdrop to lend presumptuous significance to Benjamin Button, a now forgotten white elephant movie, but Walker, a working man's Brad Pitt (strikingly handsome, strikingly masculine), made movies more modestly. B-movie simple, Hours eschews bleeding heart sanctimony regarding Hurricane Katrina and more effectively converts sociological, human concern into Yates' private existential dilemma.
Moviegoers related to Walker's average American casualness--his lack of swagger gave his surfer-blond looks adaptable elegance: he was refreshingly urban as the chase-film franchise Fast and Furious made evident (and profitable) but particularly in his best films, Chazz Palminteri's lovely, poignant Christmastime love story Noel (playing a cop whose anger issues threaten his marriage to Penelope Cruz--the most gorgeous movie couple imaginable) and Wayne Kramer's awesome thriller Running Scared (a bold look at the contemporary chaos of crime, immigration and the scourge of Methamphetamine--the movie that should have armed our culture against the lies and mediocrity of Breaking Bad). Hours suggests the kind of parable-character study by Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky back during TV's authentic golden age.
Few modern movie stars have played cops as often and well as Walker. His old-fashioned, light-heroism (recalling Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and such as former Bobby-Soxer idol Guy Madison eventually crew into in B-Westerns) might be why the mainstream media ignored Walker. Yet he commanded genre-lovers' attention--a gift that stands out in Hours, practically a one-man-show without the pomposity of Robert Redford's All is Lost or John Q where Denzel Washington bad-assed a hospital to perform heart surgery on his son.
Walker's on-screen solidarity with Black actors meant he could be a regular guy without hipster cool; always principled, his can-do characters leave the machismo to others--as in the dazzling multiracial heist movie Takers and the likable scenes in Hours of Nolan's natural camaraderie with a doctor, his chivalry with a nurse, his romantic memories and always, his shining sense of concern. If there's been any progress in American race/class relations it was evident in Takers and the Fast and Furious partnerships--Walker's trusting exchanges with Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson and others.
Walker channeled his guy's-guy persona artistically, producing genre films that branched into genuine, subtle significance and stretching his skill as with his wild Meth-head in the daring social satire Pawn Shop Chronicles. Certainly Hours will appeal to anyone who appreciates the cathartic exercise of genre films that subtly prioritize human communication. Walker's brotherly ease and romantic sincerity were a great combination; he connected heart and mind, free of fake piety and the least narcissistic of beautiful male movie stars.
After the sadness of Paul Walker's sudden passing, Hours is a final gift--an adieu and a suitable reminder why he mattered.
Follow Armond White on Twitter at 3xchair