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March 2005

By Godfrey Powell


Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Florent Siri
Producers: Mark Gordon, Arnold Rifkin, Bruce Willis, Bob Yari
Screenwriter: Doug Richardson, based on the novel by Robert Crais
Cinematographer: Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jonathan Tucker, Ben Foster, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Marshall Allman, Serena Scott Thomas, Rumer Willis




Die Hard in a mansion on the hillside

Have you ever been party to a film that teases you? Have you ever been party to a film that imparts thrills with an equal amount of ineptitude? Have you ever been driven to the point of release albeit orgiastically or perhaps through a sneeze only to not achieve climax?

Miramax fulfills such a lack of release through its new movie release, "Hostage", opening this Friday. Bruce Willis is the star as a talented LAPD hostage negotiator (Jeff Talley). The action kick starts with a hostage situation in which Jeff is given full command of a deadly situation in which a man has holed up in a ramshackle house with his gun, his wife and child. Obviously a terrible tragedy occurs after which we find Jeff has spiraled into semi-retirement as a police chief of a small northern California crime free town. Estranged from his wife and daughter, Jeff harbors the guilt of the LA tragedy deep inside him. Bruce Willis is prototypical Bruce Willis throughout the film. Imagine Bruce withdrawn, vacant in "Unbreakable"‹here he is again. Imagine investigative work being done with the smirkiness of "Die Hard." You cherish and root for this Bruce Willis to fulfill Jeff's destiny.

Unfortunately, that day doesn't come. In the small town, lives Walter Smith, an accountant for a crime syndicate (Kevin Pollack). He is a loving widowed family man with a teenage daughter and pre-teen son. They cruise through their lush town in a gleaming Escalade running errands. Little do they know, they are being followed by a trio of felonious thugs after material riches. The trio follows the Smith family home and accost them for their riches. Later, a police officer is alerted and in a very pulse jockeying scene is blown away by the homicidal, Mars. Jeff appears on the scene, tries to save his officer and takes control of the situation. Cut to the next scene: Jeff has called in the state police and very dramatically gives command of the situation to them. Bruce smirks and looks peaceful as he heads home for the state authorities to deal with the hostages. On his way home however, he is accosted by agents of the crime syndicate. They desire a DVD inside the house that has financial information of an illegal deal that must conclude by the next morning. They impress upon Bruce/ Jeff to go into the hostage situation and find the DVD by capturing his wife and child. A double hostage situation ‹no relation. At this point, Jeff wakes up from his slumber and goes into action by manipulating the police and the hostage takers to get inside the house. The film feels claustrophobic and taut like the obviously copied "Die Hard" but it is devoid of any of its ingenuity and continuity. We find Jeff running a three ring circus b/w the hostages, the SWAT team and his own hostage crisis. He's in the trees outside the hose, he's in the house, he's in the ambulance, he's at station command. How is this possible.

First time director, Florent Siri, loves to get fancy with cute camera tricks and close-ups. Siri shows flashes of great thrills but is abandoned by gaps in plot. Everyone else in the movie is a stereotypical filler. The rebellious daughter. The death worshipping raving maniac. The burglar with a heart of gold.

Ultimately, the movie pitters out in a way that must have had a greater effect in the book from which "Hostage" is based but this effect is not scene on the screen. How can a man much praised for his negotiating skills lose every negotiation? Jeff Talley doesn't negotiate why but does. Negotiate your way to this film in the perfect non-hostage venue: your house.