Sunday, July 31, 2005

Movie Review: "Hostage"

Starring Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollack, Jonathan Tucker, Ben Foster
Directed by Florent Siri

Playing another in a long line of hard-nosed cops, the tendency is to take Bruce Willis' portrayal of Jeff Talley in "Hostage" as a variation on John McClane from the "Die Hard" films. But clearly, Talley's a more tortured character and one who could probably stand to find a new line of work.
That's not to say he's a bad cop, but as the LAPD's lead negotiator in a hostage situation that goes terribly awry in the gripping, yet violent opening portion of the film, Talley shoulders much of the blame. Cut to a year later and Talley has sought refuge in a much quieter post as police chief in Bristo Camino, a small town in California. But happiness has not really come with the new surroundings, as he finds his marriage on the verge of collapse, while he battles depression over the previous year's failure.
However, leave it to a crisis to put the problems of his personal life on hold. That comes in the form of a group of young carjackers who decide to obtain a particularly expensive vehicle belonging to an accountant (Kevin Pollack) at his security-laden house. Complications initially occur when a police officer shows up on the scene and is shot, leading to more police involvement and a subsequent hostage situation involving the accountant and his two children.
Early on, Talley takes control of the scene, but gladly turns over the reins when the sheriff's department arrives. However, unbeknownst to him, the accountant has possession of incriminating evidence inside the house that leads a masked group of criminals to kidnap Talley's family. Their demand: Talley must reassume command and get in the house to retrieve said evidence or his family dies.
The shadowy group of criminals, while effective in a well acted initial face-to-face meeting with Talley, grow tiresome, as their identity or who they represent is never established. Plus, their demands on Talley seem more stretched machinations of the story, rather than the necessary means to achieve their objective. Later scenes inside the house only go to prove this point.
That's not to say that Willis isn't game for the demands of the role. He's always been effective at portraying characters seeking redemption and is in solid form in this film. His ability to play grounded characters is usually invaluable in helping to reign in movies that stretch plausibility (see any of the "Die Hard" films for examples).
He's aided by director Florent Siri, making his American movie debut, as the movie has a distinct visual style that is especially apparent in its opening third (including an appealing opening credit sequence, which is a rarity anymore in today's movies to even have one).
Just an observation – it would be nice to see more action movies find ways out of their stories beyond tons of gunfire where most of the characters die in overly violent ways. This film, unfortunately, isn't one of them.
Grade: C
(Rated R for strong graphic violence, language and some drug use.)

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