Florent Emilio Siri
Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman, Serena Scott Thomas, Rumer Willis, Kim Coates
Robert Crais (novel), Doug Richardson
Would you sacrifice another family to save your own?
Devastated by an unspeakable tragedy while on the job as a hostage negotiator for the LAPD, Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) resigns and accepts a low-profile job as chief of police in the sleepy town of Bristo Camino in Ventura County. On a slow Monday morning Jeff Talley's job becomes anything but quiet and sets him on a course that could change not only his professional but personal life forever.
$10.214 million on 2123 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 113 min.
Release Date: 6/21/2005
• Audio Commentary with Director Florent Siri
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Scenes
• “Taking Hostage Behind the Scenes”
• Sneak Peeks
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 13, 2005)
On the surface, 2005’s Hostage looks like just another Bruce Willis action extravaganza. Under the surface… well, it pretty much is another Bruce Willis action extravaganza, but in this case, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Hostage offers an enjoyable foray into the genre.
LAPD hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Willis) finds out he can’t save them all. A situation goes terribly awry and ends in the death of three people, a young boy among them. The movie skips ahead a year to find that Talley has relocated to quiet Ventura County, California. His estranged, separated wife Jane (Serena Scott Thomas) and fiery teen daughter Amanda (Rumer Willis) remain in LA but visit him on weekends. He took the job as police chief there to get away from the pressures of LA hostage negotiations - and to escape his guilt.
Not all is well, at least at home. Amanda hates it there, and Jeff doesn’t communicate well with Jane. Still, Jeff seems satisfied with his job, as it presents little stress.
In the meantime, we meet some locals. At one end of the financial spectrum we find Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak), a wealthy single dad who lives with his precociously sexy teen daughter Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and young son Tommy (Jimmy Bennett). At the other end - or at least somewhere in the middle - we discover Mars (Ben Foster) and Dennis (Jonathan Tucker), a pair of rebellious, car-jacking teen ne’er-do-wells who decide to steal Walter’s SUV. Though not wild about the idea, Dennis’s younger brother Kevin (Marshall Allman) gets stuck along for the ride.
At first this looks like little more than teen shenanigans, albeit criminal ones that become more intense when the boys produce some guns. Matters start to go downhill when Mars and Dennis hold the family at gunpoint and start to lose their cool. Walter attempts to smooth things over, and Kevin protests the path matters take. When a cop named Flores (Marjean Holden) investigates a silent alarm, Mars goes off the handle and shoots her.
When backup arrives, Mars really loses it and starts firing at that officer as well. Thus launches a standoff with the teens with their hostages inside Walter’s mansion and the cops out in front. Talley tries to deal with Dennis, but the stressed kid simply demands a helicopter to take them from the house. Eventually Wil Bechler (Robert Knepper) of the sheriff’s department arrives to handle negotiations, and a relieved Talley takes leave of the situation.
Unfortunately for him, that doesn’t end Jeff’s involvement. It turns out Walter’s been involved in some shady dealings with unsavory characters, and he has a DVD they need. With the hostage situation in bloom, this becomes difficult. To expedite matters, the baddies kidnap Jane and Amanda to use as bait to get Talley to take over negotiations and recover the DVD. The rest of the movie follows that plot as well as the inevitable complications.
I’ll say this for Hostage: it does manage to toss a lot of intriguing twists at us. Granted, many of these won’t come as a surprise. Even if you didn’t read my synopsis, you probably knew about the kidnapping of Talley’s family since the trailers touted that fact.
Even with that knowledge, Hostage tosses out a lot of surprises. These fit into the film naturally and don’t feel forced or like curveballs just for the sake of messing with us. Some are more throwaway than others, but they conspire to keep us on our toes.
I’m not sure the movie needs the twist that involves the kidnapping of Talley’s family, though. I understand the filmmakers may think he needs that pressure to do whatever it takes to rectify the circumstances at the Smith mansion, but I don’t feel the flick requires this choice. Tallley’s guilt over the incident that opens the movie should be enough to motivate him to solve the problem by any means necessary; the involvement of his family makes things unnecessarily dramatic.
Actually, that twist almost undercuts the impact of Talley’s bond with Tommy. That doesn’t quite occur, but I think the movie might work best if it ended with the resolution of the events at the Smith home. The coda that gets into things with Jeff’s wife and kid feel like something of a letdown after the excitement of the flick’s real climax.
Nonetheless, Hostage delivers a lot of tension and excitement. The opening makes an impact due to its ballsiness; it’s not everyday a film starts with the violent death of a child. With all the different twists, the movie maintains a good sense of anxiety that keeps us on the edge.
Willis tends to coast too much of the time in his modern performances, so it’s nice to see him act for once here. His trademark smirk rarely materializes and he invests himself fully in Talley. He pulls out all the stops and manages to create a lively, rich character in this honest turn.
Hostage pulls out some hokey and sentimental moments, and it can get silly at times. Despite those problems, it delivers enough compelling drama to make it work. No, you won’t get anything innovative here, but it provides pretty much everything that it promises.
The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Hostage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Something of a mixed bag, the transfer lacked the consistency to excel.
The main problem came from edge enhancement. Examples of mild or moderate haloes popped up with some frequency and gave the movie a slightly undefined look at times. Much of the flick demonstrated good clarity, but too much of it fell a little short of the expected delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, however, and I noticed no signs of source defects.
Hostage went with a palette so restricted the movie became nearly monochromatic. The flick preferred a brownish-tan tone and rarely presented varied colors. Within this form of visual design, the hues looked fine, as the transfer gave them the appropriate appearance. Blacks seemed nicely rich and firm, while most low-light shots came across as acceptably concise. A few of them were slightly dense, but those examples stayed minor. Really, the edge enhancement was the biggest issue, and it was the primary reason I had to knock my grade down to a “B”.
More consistent pleasures came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hostage. Three elements dominated the soundfield: helicopters, cars and bullets. While those last two pieces contributed to matters well, the choppers formed the most impressive part of the track. They swooped and swarmed around the room in a convincing, dynamic manner. Fire, explosions and other typical action fare also helped bolster the track.
The mix also handled more subdued elements well. The score worked quite nicely, with very good delineation of sections. The package meshed together neatly and used all five speakers to fine effect. This created a strong impression.
Audio quality was usually positive as well. Speech was the one minor weak link, largely due to a smattering of edginess. Those examples remained infrequent, though, as dialogue normally sounded natural. Music was quite robust and full, as the score demonstrated fine definition. Effects also came across as lively and accurate. Bass response was tight and deep. The track didn’t excel at a high enough level to merit a grade in “A” territory, but I liked most of what I heard.
The extras of Hostage begin with an audio commentary from director Florent Siri. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that gets into a lot of good subjects. Siri discusses the cast and characters, adaptation issues and changes to the script, sets and production design, cinematography and story-telling choices, and various influences.
At times the chat gets a little dry, but Siri manages to flesh out the subjects well. He displays passion for his first American film and the way he conveys his emotion helps make the conversation more interesting. Siri turns a bit pretentious at times, but hey, he’s French- pretentiousness is a birthright for them. From start to finish, Siri goes over information in a tight manner and provides a nice look at the production.
Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of four minutes and 48 seconds, while a pair of Extended Scenes last two minutes. Mostly character exposition pops up here. We can watch all of these with or without commentary from Siri. He gives us the basics about why he cut the scenes.
A featurette entitled Taking Hostage Behind the Scenes goes for 12 minutes and 39 seconds. It presents the standard mix of movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Siri, actors Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jonathan Tucker, Serena Scott Thomas, and Ben Foster, production designer Larry Fulton, screenwriter Doug Richardson, producer Arnold Rifkin, SWAT technical advisor Peter Weireter, and executive producers Hawk Koch and David Walley.
The program talks about Willis’s work, the characters and changes from the original script, casting, the main mansion set, shooting fire scenes, Siri’s directorial style and film noir ambitions, and the hostage negotiation elements.
I expected “Scenes” to be a standard promotional piece, and it sometimes falls into that category. However, it offers more depth than the usual fluff. Weireter’s notes about the reality of negotiations are especially good. Don’t mistake it for a full documentary, but “Scenes” presents a nice little snapshot of the flick as it runs through a mix of useful topics.
At the open of Hostage, we get some ads. The disc presents promos for Sin City, Scary Movie 3.5: The Unrated Cut, and Cursed. These also appear in the package’s Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Dracula III: Legacy, Hellraiser: Hellworld and The Prophecy.
While I can’t say I expected much from Hostage, I found the end result to provide a strong effort. It sputters at times but usually remains tight and tense. The DVD offers good picture and sound plus a few extras headlined by a fairly insightful audio commentary. Hostage deserves a look.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8372 Stars
| Number of Votes: 43