Walking into Hostage two thoughts ran across my mental, could Bruce make a comeback and would this hostage situation be anything beyond standard Hollywood fare. You would hope so as Willis’ likeable personality has been apparent since his Moonlighting days.
Well I’m here to tell you, Bruce is back in a big way, at least with this tightly wound suspense film where he‘s back in the saddle in a world akin to Die Hard. Not that Tears of the Sun was anything but compelling drama. In most fans’ eyes though, there’s been a bit of an absence from the star of the definitive hostage-action film series, Die Hard.
Hostage is a taut film best left to its own devices, meaning, the less you know beforehand, the better the journey.
With that said, Hostage journeys from simple car jacking by nondescript hooligans to a draining, pressure cooker filled evening with enough suspense to keep you on that proverbial edge. What I didn’t expect is the emotional intensity and investment the film would elicit. Could a jaded reviewer have actual genuine emotions during a genre film, the answer simply is, yes, which certainly says a lot about Hostage.
Here’s how it plays out: Bruce is a calm, collected, veteran Los Angeles (surprise) Police Hostage Negotiator, Jeff Talley, whose present negotiating situation is the one which sends him into semi-retirement as the Police Chief of the sleepy town, Bristo Camino. Just what the doctor ordered.
The pristine world of our damaged hero (his wife is on the verge of a divorce) is shattered when three good old boys catch a nuclear family (a teenage daughter and young son) and turn gangsta in hopes of jacking the Escalade from successful accountant family man, Mr. Smith (Kevin Pollack), a man of many faces. In midst of the ill-planned robbery all hell breaks loose, leaving them with a murder rap on their hands. They then do what most thugs would do - they take hostages (by the way, I found no less than seven recent, similarly named titles).
All this happens in Talley’s neck of the woods, thrusting him back into the world he thought he left in Los Angeles. Of course Talley is reluctant, even relinquishing control of the situation with ease. And just when all appears to be coming together (maybe mother and daughter won’t be leaving after all, daughter by the way played by real life daughter, Rumer Willis), his world crumbles.
I must admit, the tell tale signs at the film’s start said, “paint by numbers thriller.” Nevertheless, with formidable villains the somewhat cliché ridden story with a twist reveals itself as wholly original.
Without spoiling much, the twist sends him back into danger, fighting with every last breath to help save Pollack’s family and much more. Not an easy task in a high security home. But of course, like that yippee-ki-yay fella, Talley is inventive. Believe it or not, being engrossed in the story dynamics, not once did Die Hard spring to mind.
With the legato, fairly simple plot, exciting villains, and an ever-ticking clock, it’s easy to get caught within the story’s web. Even effective hostage thrillers like The Negotiator, Phone Booth, and Cellular failed to match the emotional intricacies that Hostage exhibits, thereby separating Hostage from other contenders.
French filmmaker Florent Siri (whose brief résumé includes Tom Clancy-based Splinter Cell video games) makes his Hollywood debut with the skill of a vet, delivering a visually and emotionally rich film. Even the somber, piano tinged score (instead of the usual syrupy romanticism) works well with the ominous sound design.
And I would be remiss if Doug Richardson (Bad Boys, Die Hard 2, Money Train, among others), whose prior credits probably expose why this adaptation is so proficient, didn‘t get due mention.
With very few elements not to like, Hostage will most certainly end up as one of the best of 2005.
Lastly, not the only strong performance, but a near unrecognizable Ben Foster is mesmerizing, totally immersed as Mars, the calculatingly laconic and not so easily defined psychopath running one part of the show. No doubt the best of his career so far.
© Completed by Julian Boyance on March 9th, 2005
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