by Aaron on March 14, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

What starts out as a taut suspense film utterly derails itself in the last act with oen of the most ridiculously over-the-top action sequences imaginable.  This should-have-been-interesting film loses itself within the confines of it’s increasingly contrived plot, and not even a solid (and entertaining) performance by Willis can save it.  But it does get bonus points for prompting me to say ‘Wow, I wish Kevin Pollack was in more of this’.

2 & 1/2 Stars

I feel bad for Bruce Willis.  He’s an actor that I typically like, but he just keeps picking these projects that I either outright hate (like The Whole Nine Yards and Tears of the Sun), or are just beneath his ability.  Sadly there aren’t enough Die Hards and Unbreakables in his resume, and Hostage probably won’t help that average.

Willis trades his guns for brains in this one, playing Jeff Talley, a former LAPD hostage negotiator who retreated to a small town sheriff’s department after a hostage situation went horribly wrong.  Of course the Hollywood law of averages states that he’ll be forced to play the negotiator once again, and sure enough when two bush-league delinquent teens (Jonothan Tucker and Marshall Allman) & their full-blown psycho buddy (Ben Foster) take a family hostage after botching a carjacking, Talley is returned to the kind of situation that broke his spirit.  Unfortunately for Talley, the teens have taken over the home of Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack), a man with ties to a mysterious organization who will do anything to ensure that their information is retrieved, up to and including Talley’s family.  Talley is forced to barter the lives of innocents against the lives of his own family, while trying to keep the police from invading the home. 

There’s no way around the fact that the premise of Hostage is full-blown ridiculous.  Seriously, that’s really out there in the land of WTF?  Thankfully, a decent script and a high tension atmosphere keep Hostage from descending into silliness until the last act is played out.  French director Florent Emilio Siri (who’s previous projects have included directing the Tom Clancy video game Splinter Cell, which is readily apparent by just the opening credit sequence alone) understands how to maintain a tense situation without going over the top.  Talley’s choices (and the moral cost they impose on him) give you a reason to care about the fate of everyone involved.  Willis does pained like none other, and his trademark stoicism acts as a flimsy facade for the internal anguish Talley is suffering.  I was really impressed with his performance.  I only wish the film lived up to it. 

The last 30 minutes of this film almost completely derail Hostage, as a previously shaky delinquent turns into a one-man killing machine that’s a mix between Luc Besson’s Professional and The Crow.  Yes, it’s really that outlandish.  I’d thought the inability to finish a film strongly was a particularly American ailment, but Hostage proves that shoddy storytelling knows no borders.

My other nitpick with Hostage would be its use of music.  Far from using an understated score like you’d expect in a suspense film, you’re bombarded with the kind of orchestral freak outs normally reserved for comic book films.  I kept looking in the corner of the frames for Batman to pop up.  If you’re willing to drop your sensibility at the ticket booth, Hostage delivers some solid moments of suspense, but try not to be too disappointed when the previously smooth ride hits some very large potholes at the finish.

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