Hostage instead, director Florent Emilio Siri delivers
a troubled attempt to return to Bruce Willis’ heyday
as an action hero. Hostage fails to provide the
type of setup worthy of comparison to a film like Die
Hard, but what it does right works.
introduction, hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Willis) is
in the middle of a family crisis. The crisis does not involve
his wife or daughter, but rather the lives of three others
barricaded within a Los Angeles home due to a domestic dispute
gone terribly wrong. Talley’s initial presentation
sparks intrigue. His job is tense, communicating via secured
phone line with an irate husband on the verge of killing
his family before turning the gun on himself, and he spends
his time laying on the floor of a neighboring rooftop communicating
status updates with fellow SWAT team members via dry erase
boards. When a sniper indicates that he has a shot, Talley
calls him off with confidence.
opening sequence, we know that things will soon go terribly
wrong. Willis plays Talley as a terse and edgy individual.
His beard is two months past a five o’clock shadow,
and its patches of grey give touches that bring Talley to
life with little needed exposition. Talley’s work
must be psychologically taxing. Hostage’s lives are
equated to survival percentages at rapidly declining rates.
When negotiations crumble between Talley’s fingers,
we feel his pain, and it’s at this point that Hostage
has us vested.
failure and the subsequent regret pushes Talley to quit
his position with the SWAT team and become chief of Bristo
Camino Police Department in the suburban confines of Ventura
County. This move does not fair well with his daughter,
Amanda (Rumer Willis), and the tension is tearing Jeff and
his wife Jane (Serena Scott Thomas) further and further
apart. The upshot is that Bristo Camino is not synonymous
with crime, thus lowering the danger factor. To help signify
this change in character, Siri has Willis shave his head,
trading the scruffy action hero look from the opening for
the more recent, psychological Willis character.
Laws of Action Heroes require that wherever they may roam,
try as they might, conflict is never finished with those
who fight for good. Trouble finds them, no matter where
they might hide, and this is precisely what happens to Jeff
Talley. What Hostage does well enough is set up
our conflict. Initially Talley is sucked back into a hostage
crisis when a burglary by two-bit petty thugs Dennis Kelly
(Jonathan Tucker) and Mars Krupcheck (Ben Foster) decide
to pull off a home invasion on the Smith family.
Smith (Kevin Pollak) is a successful single parent accountant
with a spread that would make most celebrities jealous.
To say that daughter and son, Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and
Tommy (Jimmy Bennett), live comfortably in Walter’s
estate is an understatement. Posh doesn’t begin to
describe it. In fact, it is their upscale lifestyle that
initially attracts Dennis and Mars to begin with. The fact
that Dennis’ innocent brother Kevin tags along doesn’t
initial engagement with Dennis and Mars is played perfectly.
Sure, one would think that police vehicles would be equipped
with bullet proof glass, but its forgivable considering
the staging of a rescue when one of Talley’s officers
is gunned down when responding to the Smith’s silent
alarm. Talley jumps at the first chance he gets to hand
over jurisdiction to the County Sheriff, which couldn’t
have been handled better. We understand precisely why Jeff
took this low-key job without him waxing poetic about it
in the process.
time crooks cannot be the true reasoning behind a film with
such as this, so naturally something larger must be going
on, behind the scenes. This comes in the form of shady business
partners of Walter’s, who are eagerly awaiting valuable
information that Walter has promised to deliver moments
before Dennis and Mars overpower the household. Walter’s
mysterious partners decide that they want Jeff calling the
shots in negotiating with Dennis and Mars in order to retrieve
their information, which is conveniently burned on a DVD
disguised as a copy of Heaven Can Wait. To inspire
Jeff into taking part in this plot, the mysterious businessmen
hold Jane and Amanda hostage, promising only to release
them when the DVD is returned to them.
a great deal of this film works as an action film because
tensions run high and this keeps us intrigued. Honestly.
Some aspects fail miserably due to poor attention to detail.
One sequence in which Jeff enlists the help of Tommy, who
is communicating with him via cell phone from within the
crawlspaces of the house, is impossible to take seriously
because of an unfortunately titled video game reference,
Wubbazorg. Yes, I’m aware that there is no
also takes a backseat at times. Tommy’s crawlspaces
are so spacious that they put my own apartment to shame.
The film survives because it successfully navigates its
way around most contrivances while managing to close with
an open ending. At first glance this seems intended for
the inevitable Hostages, yet upon further reflection
the fate of both the Smith and Talley families can only
be mired in doom and gloom shortly after the credits roll.