Starring: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Ben Foster
Director: Florent Emilio Siri
The opening sequence of Bruce Willis’ latest action-thriller “Hostage” is a fast-paced adrenaline rush of suspense that not only keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, but also revives the since-shattered career of the charming action-star in a matter of minutes. And yes, this includes Willis’ horrifying cameo in “Ocean’s Twelve” as part of his questionable career choices prior to the release of this film. Following a visually entertaining credit sequence displaying a black-and-white cityscape shadowed underneath a blood-red sky, director Florent Emilio Siri rushes into the main action and never looks back. Based on the novel by Richard Crais, “Hostage” is an intense compound of drama, suspense and action rolled into one tight package that works beautifully until the unveiling of its second-rate conclusion.
Willis stars as Jeff Talley, an expert police negotiator who abandons his post with the LAPD after feeling solely responsible for the death of a woman and her young son by the hand of a crazed gunman. One year later, the audience is reacquainted with Talley as the police chief for a low-crime suburb dominated by rich businessman like Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack), a single-dad accountant who meddles around in illegal bank transfers and the usual corporate Hollywood villainy. When a trio of troublemakers - led by the borderline-psychotic Mars (Ben Foster) - attempt to jack Mr. Smith’s Escalade, a visit from a local cop results in the frantic takeover of the residence. The cop is shot, Mr. Smith and his children (Jimmy Bennett and Michelle Horn) are taken hostage, and Talley is called in to take hold of the situation.
To make matters worse, some random bad guys (hidden in the darkness for some sort of increased effect of suspense) were scheduled to pick up a DVD with encrypted information from the Smith residence and are so persistent to get the disc back that they’re willing to add “kidnapping” to their resume of criminal feats. These guys have done their homework and know of Talley’s previous experience as a negotiator, so they nab his wife and daughter (played by Serena Scott Thomas and real-life daughter Rumer Willis) as collateral for getting the DVD safely out of the house. Unfortunately, the film’s final twenty minutes becomes a war zone filled with Molotov cocktails and gunfire as it dives into a pool of unnecessary violence and gore, but it doesn’t steal too much from the overall product.
“Hostage” is one of the finest action-dramas in recent years and marks the best performance from Willis in almost a decade. Willis is a strong fit for the role of Talley, but his appearance next month in Robert Rodriquez’s “Sin City” will most likely create even more revival buzz for the veteran star. Meanwhile, Ben Foster continues to prove that he’s one of the best upcoming young actors in the business with an array of eclectic performances that shows he’s not afraid to act outside the box of traditionally safer roles. While the term “thriller” is being thrown around during press junkets and in reviews for the film, there aren’t as many plot turns or surprises as most would probably expect within that particular genre. It’s a nail-biter for sure, but don’t expect to be wowed by any hidden character secrets at the very end. Instead, relish the solid story and cast of unique characters that have been superbly adapted from the original source material. Whether you pick up the book or check out the film, “Hostage” will captivate you.
The DVD release for “Hostage” certainly isn’t as over-the-top as the film itself was, but then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Along with a run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes featurette, the single-disc release also contains a full-length audio commentary track with director Florent Siri, as well as a selection of deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by the director.