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HOSTAGE (director: Florent Emilio Siri; screenwriters: from the novel by Robert Crais/Doug Richardson; cinematographer: Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci; editors: Richard Byard/Olivier Gajan; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Bruce Willis (Jeff Talley), Kevin Pollak (Walter Smith), Ben Foster (Mars Krupcheck), Michelle Horn (Jennifer Smith), Jimmy Bennett (Tommy Smith), Serena Scott Thomas (Jane Talley), Rumer Willis (Amanda Talley), Jonathan Tucker (Dennis), Marshall Allman (Kevin); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arnold Rifkin/Mark Gordon/Bruce Willis/Bob Yari; Miramax and Stratus Film Company; 2005-USA/Germany)
“It’s about as meaningful as a pile of clichés.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This unpleasant and meaningless thriller is French director Florent Emilio Siri’s (“The Nest”) English-language film debut. The film literally goes up in flames by its conclusion as a former LAPD Swat team ace and hotshot hostage negotiator tries to redeem himself over a child’s death in a bungled hostage situation. It’s all been done before (and unfortunately will most likely be done again as long as the public is willing to put up with crap like this), as the film religiously follows this subgenre’s tired formula and piles on the gore with its over-the-top violence. It’s a lot of huffing and puffing over nothing much, as it’s about as meaningful as a pile of clichés. Save for Bruce Willis bringing some credibility to this B film story (he was also the executive producer), as once again he shows he’s a natural when around children; and, Kevin Pollak turning his small role into a more literate one than a lesser actor would have most likely been able to pull off. Writer Doug Richardson adapted it from the novel by Robert Crais.

Burn-out Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) becomes police chief in a sleepy small-town in Ventura County, where he moved with his wife (Serena Scott Thomas) and daughter (Willis’ real-life daughter, Rumer) after the tragic hostage incident in Los Angeles. The film opens, showing us what went down and soured the caring police hostage negotiator to become the poster boy for macho men who cry to themselves. The still distraught Talley gets caught up in another hostage situation when three alienated punky white trash teens, the trigger-happy and love-sick Mars (Ben Foster) and the demented brothers Dennis (Jonathan Tucker) (Dennis) and Kevin (Marshall Allman), take over the luxury hilltop house of the filthy rich Smith family and hold the shady accountant father Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) and his sex-tease teenage daughter Jennifer and video geek young son Tommy hostage. One of Talley’s cops gets killed by the nervous punks, and the county sheriff is called in to take over the case. But things turn more complicated, as Talley’s family gets held hostage by someone wanting Walter’s DVD, which brings our man Talley back into heading the case. It’s soon learned that Walter made a fortune cooking the books for crooked businessmen and the ones holding Talley’s family (who say they are feds, decked out in black masks) want those incriminating discs or they’ll eliminate his loved ones.

The tired story has Talley show us that even though he’s a sensitive soul, contrasting him to all the villains and the police officers who can only do things rigidly by the book, he nevertheless is the Man who can save both families (as he chooses to not only think of saving his family) and deal with these creepy worthless criminals (both the amateur and the professional criminal psychos) in the only way you can in such a lame action-hero pic; that is, by taking questionable risks and having things go pyrotechnical.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”