Friday, April 01, 2005

Hostage review

So, I finally got my ass to the dirt theater to see the new Florent Emilio Siri pic, Hostage. Damn.
Bruce Willis returns to form as Jeff Talley, a hotshot hostage negotiator with the LA County Sheriff's Department. Something goes terribly, horribly wrong with a negotiation, and Jeff is literally left with blood on his hands.
Cut to a year later, and Talley has made a new life for himself as chief of police in a small town in Ventura County. He and his wife are estranged, but trying to work it out. His daughter is yelling a lot. Things aren't good, but they're not bad, either.

Things take a dramatic turn when three teenagers invade the home of Walter Smith, who turns out to be an accountant for the mob, hoping to steal his Escalade. One of the three youths, Mars (Ben Foster), is a sick little bastard. The kind of person who likes to watch other people die for amusement. The kind of person who'd have committed a killing spree in high school if he hadn't been kicked out/left on his own. He kills a cop who responds to the silent alarm at the Smith home, and things get progressively worse.
The leader of the three, Dennis (Jonathan Tucker), takes more cues from Mars than he makes decisions on his own. He also has a bit of a temper, that complicates things when he beats Smith into unconsciousness. His brother doesn't want to be a part of any of this, but is already too sucked in to get out.
After responding to the scene, Chief Talley is contacted by the mob, who want an encrypted disc out of the house. They've kidnapped Talley's family. They threaten to kill them unless Talley acquires the disc.
The bad situation continues to get worse.

With few options open to him, Talley gets a call from Walter's son Tommy (Jimmy Bennet) who is still in the house. Tommy's managed to get free and he's found his sister's cell phone. Now, Talley has an ally in the house, and a chance of rescuing his family. If the unbalanced kids don't screw things up first, anyway.
He doesn't want to let the Smith family die. He wants to rescue his family. Both noble goals. Both at cross purposes. Every ounce of Talley's skill as a cop and negotiator isn't going to be enough.

Hostage is a smart thriller that doesn't try to be anything but a taught white-knuckle ride. It doesn't always take the safe way out, instead letting the moral ambiguity of everyone's motives move the characters into corners they'd rather not be.
Willis is fantastic, letting his anxieties slow burn until they explode. Ben Foster, on the other hand, gets a WEE bit too creepy, even for the maladjusted freak his character is. Of course, being a Siri film, the action is dynamic and explosive -- and the film is expertly shot, aside from an over-reliance on the Spike Lee dolly cam.
Well worth checking out before it disappears from theaters.

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