I imagine the hardest part of being someone’s lifeline is snapping. Knowing that you hold life or death in your hands, afraid that one wrong word, one wrong move, can end it all. Most people who have a bad day go home and start over again. When a hostage negotiator has a bad day someone doesn’t get to go home.

That’s the weight hanging around the neck of former Los Angeles Police hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis). At the beginning of the dizzying thriller Hostage, Talley finds himself facing down another potentially deadly crisis. The results force Talley to leave the high pressure job for a more laid-back Chief of Police position in Ventura County.

With his wife (Serena Scott Thomas) and daughter (Rumer Willis) by his side, Talley finds the low key existence is just what the doctor ordered. Then the unthinkable happens. A home invasion robbery escalates into a hostage situation. Talley is called back into action, unaware that his participation will become personal.

As written by Doug Richardson from the Cracker Jack novel by Robert Crais, Hostage starts off with the best intentions, a nail-biting, pulse-pounding crime thriller about a man forced to make some extremely tough decisions. Unfortunately, some of those decisions turn the last half of the film into a hostage situation of its own. Like drug dealers, Richardson and French director Florent Siri (The Nest) entice us with a taste of pure excitement, but once we’re hooked, they start force feeding us junk.

Indeed the first hour of Hostage is like an adrenaline rush, followed by a crash and burn finale that makes no sense and demands too much. Clever story arcs give way to convenient plotting, especially when Talley learns that he has two hostage situations to deal with. The first involves father Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) and his children, being held inside their comfortable country home by a trio of punks.

The second involves Talley’s family, who have been taken hostage by a masked group of men who need to get their mitts on an incriminating disc inside the home. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. Once the filmmakers get that rock rolling, they stone us with a constant barrage of implausible coincidences and absurdities.

Siri does an admirable job of keeping this time bomb ticking. The director keeps Hostage moving even when logic hits a brick wall. The actors lend conviction, almost pleading with us to forgive the tangled web and concentrate on the battle between the spider and the fly.

Stalled Negotiations


Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman. Directed by Florent Siri. Rated R. 113 Minutes.


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