Thursday, March 10, 2005
In Hostage, Bruce Willis returns to popcorn action
movie fare as a former LAPD negotiator turned small town
police chief who gets caught in a web of violence involving
the kidnapping of his own family and that of a mob-connected
father of two. After a gritty opening sequence wherein a
fuzzyheaded Willis fails to prevent the murder of a mother and
her young son, Jeff Talley (Willis) downshifts his police
career to preside over a low-crime area of Ventura County.
Echoes of the recent remake of Assault On Precinct 13
and Joe Carnahan’s now-classic Narc stray into an
unraveling plot as Talley’s life abruptly dips into all too
familiar territory of hostage negotiation. French director
Florent Emilio Siri (The Nest) makes his
English-language debut with an over-the-top action thriller
that’s all twisting action construction without many nuances
of character development to clutter up the savage spectacle.
The effect is entertaining but plainly rooted in
HOSTAGE ( * * * )
Directed by Florent Emilio Siri.
Starring Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollack and Ben Foster.
(Rated R, 102 mins.) At the Century Cinemas Del Monte Center, Northridge Cinemas.
It’s a good thing that the filmmakers return Bruce Willis to his naturally bald state after the film’s disjointed opening where he wears a decent if weird looking hairpiece. As the cliché prepares us, Jeff Talley is separated from his estranged wife and his teenaged daughter (played by Willis’ real life daughter Rumer Willis) hates him while he struggles with the ghosts of his past failure. You can practically smell the poor cop’s spaghetti on the stove. So when three teenaged hoodlums incidentally hijack the canyon mansion of a shady mob accountant (Kevin Pollack), whose house is a giant panic room styled fortress, Talley is drawn into the fray.
A good deal of the movie’s intensity stems from the off-kilter pecking order dependency between the teen thugs whose spontaneous attempt to carjack an SUV devolves into a hostage situation after they shoot a female police officer responding to a silent house alarm. Marshall Allman (Little Black Book) and Jonathan Tucker (The Virgin Suicides) play brothers pitted against one another by an older and manipulative thug named Mars (well played by Ben Foster—Big Trouble). Once the battle lines are drawn around the house by the encroaching SWAT team, the interior drama between the thugs and the hostage father, his resourceful young son, and sensual teen daughter fuel the film’s intermittent anxiety.
But the story, based on Robert Crais’ novel, goes a stretch too far when Talley’s own wife and daughter are kidnapped by Mafioso goons intent on recovering a CD-ROM file from inside the occupied home during the hostage crisis for fear that the damning evidence will be discovered. Talley is coerced to reassert his authority over the tense situation after he’s abdicated the responsibility to another officer because of his acute insecurity regarding hostage mediation. It’s here that Bruce Willis fans are paid out in spades as he applies his cool-headed charisma to insanely dangerous circumstances.