Hostage Movie Review

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Several stock action-thriller ingredients are slung togetherand served up as new Hollywood hash in "Hostage," including aburned-out cop with personal problems, novice young criminals in over theirnervous heads, a brave little kid who outwits his kidnappers, and a possiblegovernment conspiracy hiding behind seemingly lesser crimes.

Bruce Willis plays an LAPD hostage negotiator who has losthis touch (with bloody results) and retired to a more relaxing job as policechief for a quiet, upscale enclave in the Southern California mountains.He's also left behind an unhappy wife and a bitter teenager (played bydaughter Rumor Willis), who pay an occasional visit to quarrel about apossible divorce.

But his tempered tranquility is truly shattered when asimple SUV theft by a threesome of hoodlum drop-outs turns into a cop-killingstand-off at the high-security cliffside compound of a rich resident (KevinPollak) who launders money for a group of shadowy, dangerous mystery men.

The young thugs -- led by an unstable, slightly older psycho(Ben Foster) -- put the house on high-tech lockdown(a plot device applied rather arbitrarily throughout), tie up the unconsciousPollak and his two kids, make untenable demands, discover bags and bagsfull of hidden cash, and only slowly come to realize how much trouble they'rein.

But Willis is in trouble too: The dark figures behind allthat cash have snatched his wife and daughter, and threaten to kill themif he doesn't get inside the house to retrieve an encrypted computer-CDrecord of billions in illegal transactions. The way the actor embodieshis stoic character's fear for his family is the most salient facet ofthe film.

While relatively unpredictable in the order of inevitableevents, the plot pieces of "Hostage" eventually all fall intoplace as expected. The psycho becomes obsessed with Pollak's vulnerablyvoluptuous daughter (Michelle Horn) while his compatriots begin to panic.The girl's quick-thinking little brother (Jimmy Bennett) escapes into thehouse's ventilation system, his absence going inexplicably unnoticed forhours on end, and contacts Willis on a cell phone. The conspiracy anglebecomes more treacherous when the FBI gets involved, and Willis plays allsides against the middle hoping to save both Pollak's family and his ownfrom terrible fates.

Director Florent Emilio Siri, a veteran of French crimethrillers and video games, has a good grip on the film's tingly tension,but he lets logical and logistical details slip through his fingers onhis way toward a climax that goes into cliche overdrive. Soon bad guysare walking through walls of fire in laughably ominous slow-motion (whilehard-rock guitar grinds on the soundtrack, of course), and blood-gushingfinal showdowns are taking place without real-world consequences or follow-upinvestigations.

"Hostage" may be nail-biting enough to hold theattention of matinee moviegoers whose cinematic experience doesn't alreadyinclude dozens of other variations on these same characters, plots andthemes. But if you expect anything memorable or imaginative for your tenbucks, look elsewhere.

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Hostage Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, Friday, March 11, 2005


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