Hostage Review

Near the end of this chaotic and clichéd movie, Bruce Willis' character is told, "The less you know, the better." While he may be better off not knowing a damn thing, we would be better off knowing something about this film. Hostage is predicated on an interesting concept, but it is quickly lost with the familiar, violence-heavy plot that typifies below average thrillers.

Willis plays Jeff Talley, a former LAPD hostage negotiator who resigns his guilt-ridden, big city post for a quiet, safe position as chief of police in the small town of Bristo Camino. Even with the new surroundings, Talley has yet to heal the emotional scarring he's inflicted on his wife and daughter. Instead of reconciling the damage at home, he runs from it: "See you next weekend" he tells his family before scurrying off to work. It's hardly the behavior you'd expect from someone touted as an expert in mediation.

For Talley, what starts out as just another quiet Monday will soon turn violent. Three juvenile delinquents break into a seemingly secure hillside estate to steal an expensive SUV owned by an accountant known only as Mr. Smith (Kevin Pollak). But the trio quickly gets in over their heads after taking the Smith family hostage and executing the police officers that respond to the scene. Talley is reluctantly forced back into the familiar role he left behind in L.A.

With just this premise alone, Hostage could have been an insightful character study focusing on the correlations between Talley's family crisis and that of the family held hostage. Unfortunately, director Florent Siri doesn't stop here. In fact, Siri puts in so many plot complications that it becomes difficult to make heads or tails of what's happening or whose side we're on. We soon learn that Smith is the point man for an illegal money laundering operation that gets fouled-up by the hostage crisis. This becomes Talley's problem to fix when he's directed by the FBI to retrieve some valuable information from a DVD inside the house. Now, Talley really has his hands full.

There are too many problems here to focus on just one, as the plot is buried in a pool of blood and ashes. Doug Richardson's screenplay, based on the bestseller by Robert Crais, shares a striking resemblance to Panic Room, with the bumbling crooks locked inside a highly secure labyrinth of secret rooms. But Richardson's story lacks all of the tension and resolve that made Room a first-rate thriller. Hostage opts for the easy road by choosing formula over substance.

Willis is comfortable in a role that's not far removed from his parts in countless other action movies. Hostage affords him the opportunity to shed a tear and show an inner side, but the loud dramatic score and slow-motion photography sheepishly underscore these moments. Willis just doesn't have the reach to pull it off entirely on his own merit.

The DVD includes the usual collection of director commentary, deleted and extended scenes, and a making-of vignette.


Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th March 2005

Box Office USA: $34.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $34.6M

Budget: $75M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Syndicate Films International, Miramax Films, Cheyenne Enterprises, Stratus Film Co., Equity Pictures Medienfonds GmbH & Co. KG II, Hostage GmbH

Reviews 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 100

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , , , , Richard D. Zanuck

Starring: as Jeff Talley, Kevin Pollak as Walter Smith, as Tommy Smith, as Jennifer Smith, as Mars Krupcheck, as Dennis Kelly, as Kevin Kelly, as Jane Talley, as Amanda Talley, Marjean Holden as Carol Flores, as Louise