Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Graphic Violence, Language and some Drug Use
Directed by: Florent Emilio Siri
Written by: Doug Richardson
(based on the novel HOSTAGE by Robert Crais)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman, Serena Scott Thomas & Rumer Willis
HOSTAGE was coming out during a string of flops from Bruce Willis. HART’S WAR, TEARS OF THE SUN, and THE WHOLE TEN YARDS preceded this action-thriller and this bombed domestically as well. I can’t really blame the general public for not supporting what is by all means a generic plot trying to stay fresh with convoluted twists. HOSTAGE has its fair share of solid moments, but they mostly come out of the simple parts of the story as opposed to plot holes springing up from a screenwriter and novelist trying to over complicate what could be the equivalent of an entertaining B-movie.
Jeff Talley is a former hostage negotiator who botched a job that cost three people their lives…kind of like plenty of cop movies. Traumatized by the event, Jeff Talley has gone back to being a regular old police officer. This doesn’t exactly take him far from extreme situations…kind of like John McClane. He’s thrust back into his old line of work when a hostage situation escalates into something more and he holds the keys to solving it. Three teenage hoodlums have taken a rich family hostage and don’t realize that they’re sitting on top of a dangerous secret inside of the house…sort of like PANIC ROOM. To make matters even more dire, McClane’s, er I mean Talley’s family is taken hostage by even more dangerous people. This cop must do whatever it takes to end the hostage situation safely. He also needs to save his family….sort of like every movie of this kind ever made.
If that plot set-up didn’t make things sound overly complicated and familiar at the same time, then I didn’t try hard enough when writing it. HOSTAGE falls flat on its face plenty of times to its own detailed set-up. There are way too many twists that don’t add up or are mighty convenient. It wasn’t at all necessary to add Talley’s wife and daughter being taken hostage at all. It only seems to pad out the running time further than it needed to go, only paying off in a familiar and silly final scene. For a good section of the film, I forgot that Talley’s family was even in danger because he almost seems like he’s just trying to diffuse an intense scenario to save the lives of two captive kids. Therein lies the kind of film HOSTAGE should have been to begin with. Bruce Willis doesn’t add anything to the bad-ass lead action hero role he usually plays, nor did he have to as this is pretty much a generic flick from the get-go. Sometimes, these kinds of movies can be a lot of fun in spite of their familiarity.
Keeping things relatively simple might have still retained quite a few clichés, but it would have run 90 minutes and been better in its simple entertainment factor. The kid characters are a bit annoying, but the teenage thugs (two of which are Jonathan Tucker and a psycho Ben Foster) are interesting to watch. I was more concerned about their struggles as unintended super criminals (all they wanted was to steal a car and things spiraled out of control) then I was about Bruce Willis taking down bigger guns running the show. The movie is also slick-looking and does get surprisingly graphic in its violence. There’s a good deal of bloodshed here and a fiery climax at the house is glorious. The mansion itself is a really creative setting. It’s one thing to put a story like this in a mansion, but quite another to set things in an ultra-mansion that has a super special lockdown system (ala THE PURGE). The good moments come strictly from the kids being held hostage and Bruce Willis trying to save them from unstable teenage punks. That’s where the focus should have been the entire time.
HOSTAGE is a mixed bag with a handful of generic clichés, but actually suffers more from trying too hard to be new and special by adding way too many tiny plot twists that don’t matter in the long run. This flick would have been far more enjoyable as a 90-something minute to-the-point action-thriller that was just Bruce Willis (playing John McClane under a different name) trying to save two kids against increasingly dangerous odds. The plot thread with his family being kidnapped only pads things out for 20 minutes longer than it needed to go. HOSTAGE is a potentially great action flick held hostage by stupid plot twists.