"Held Hostage by a Gratuitous Script"
Moviegoers should be wary and suspicious of action flicks with major stars being released by studios early in the year. This is the time when the dregs of Hollywood are unceremoniously dumped into multiplexes. The goal is to clear out the anticipated duds before the real blockbusters dominate the weeks of summer. Unfortunately, HOSTAGE lives up to its expected disappointment.
In HOSTAGE, Bruce Willis stars as Jeff Talley, a former SWAT member and LAPD hostage negotiator. Talley has moved his divided family into a small community with even smaller crime statistics. He is trying to find healing in this quiet community after, just a year earlier, an unsuccessful negotiation in Los Angeles left an entire family dead.
As the senior police officer of Bristo Camino, Talley responds to a developing hostage situation involving some wayward teenagers, a cold-blooded killer and a wealthy family living in a witness protection program, as well as other ruthless and unsavory characters. Unknown to Talley, the father of the family being held hostage is some sort of accountant for an illicit and illegal organization. By all appearances, Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) is a loving father with many dark secrets. His mansion (which redefines the phrase “strong fortress”) contains state-of-the-art security technology, a safe loaded with millions in cash and encryption equipment. The secret organization he works for will go to any length to recover an encrypted DVD in the midst of this hostage situation.
Smith’s children, a rebellious teenager named Jennifer and a young and resourceful son named Tommy, do their best to cope with the frightening drama unfolding before them. Tommy cleverly uses his decorated “clubhouse” crawl-spaces to elude the bad guys while contacting Talley on Jennifer’s cell phone. The hostage-takers are an erratic, dangerous and divided group made up of arguing brothers and a cold-hearted young man obsessed with Jennifer.
Meanwhile, away from the Smith residence, masked gunmen briefly abduct Talley and reveal that they have taken his own family hostage. Unless he recovers the DVD for the secret organization, his family will be ruthlessly killed. Talley is faced with trying to resolve the HOSTAGE situation in the Smith mansion while taking steps to protect his own abducted family.
HOSTAGE emulates the thrills and drama of PANIC ROOM, UNBREAKABLE, DIE HARD, and many other more effective movies. The story is intriguing enough to entice the viewers, but holding them there requires more heart and greater credibility than this movie provides. There is no doubt that Willis is an international star, but lacking a strong supporting cast leaves him floundering and posturing in disappointing scenes. His real-life daughter, Rumer, plays Talley’s rebellious daughter, Amanda. She and the actress playing Talley’s wife are so wooden in their roles, they practically stop the building drama. Another problem is the music. Alexandre Desplat has composed beautiful original music for HOSTAGE, but Director Florent Siri relies too heavily on that music and a silly script to carry tender scenes between Talley and the abducted children. The result is awkward and sometimes laughably bad.
Oddly enough, HOSTAGE’s press and marketing presents a better story than the one the movie offers. The promotional tagline reads: “Would you sacrifice another family to save your own?” This is a great idea for a plot device, but it fails to surface in HOSTAGE. Further, the twists and turns of this lumbering story offer tantalizing hints of a better movie, but even they fail to go anywhere. Perhaps Director Siri will next time use his marketing department to develop scripts and storylines instead of his screenwriters.
Most offensive of all is the fact that HOSTAGE revels in its gratuitousness. The language and violence are excessive and unnecessary. Viewers are deluged with an obscenity-laden script which produces profanities, blasphemies and strong cursing occurring an average of once per minute. Add to that the sexual references, rebellious attitudes, drug use, and violence, and viewers are left with a mind-numbing experience. HOSTAGE may have a few moral messages and themes sprinkled throughout, but they pay lip service to an overall unwholesome project.
Do yourself a big favor: skip HOSTAGE or you may find your heart held captive by spiritual darkness for its 113 minutes.
(HH, B, C, O, LLL, VVV, S, N, A, DD, MMM) Strong humanist worldview with minor moral and redemptive themes of forgiveness, sacrifice, courage, justice, and protecting one’s family, and girl’s room decorated with occult “Fortune Telling” neon signs and large tarot cards; includes 100 obscenities (with 57 f-words), five profanities and four blasphemies; graphic violence and much blood throughout includes gunshots at close range, a knife stab into a man’s face, man shoots and kills family and then himself, child struck viciously with telephone, boy thrown across room, police officer shot several times, girl choked, girl tied up in several scenes, some cleavage shown, several explosions, arson, men hit with molotov cocktails, teen thrown off balcony, teen shot by accomplice, man engulfed in flames, children stalked and chased by killer, people held hostage at gunpoint, kidnapping, boy cuts his hand on broken glass, man knocked unconscious by repeated gun strikes, boy dies in arms of policeman, fighting, boy asked to shoot attacker, children terrorized and traumatized, and family dog killed; sexual innuendo and references, derogatory and degrading terms for women used frequently and teen girl fears of being raped; paramedics (men) in underwear to retrieve injured hostage and kidnapper rests his head on girl’s clothed chest; alcohol use; smoking, repeated drug use, marijuana offered to teenage hostage several times, daughter hides drug equipment under her bed, and drugs used by paramedic to revive man; disrespect to parents and rebellious behavior by teens shown in several ways, talk of carjacking and robbery, parents shown trying to curb teen behavior, father warns daughter that her clothing is seen as a “sexual invitation,” daughter fears her parents’ divorce but spouses express strong commitment to their marriage and to each other, extortion, illicit underworld activity (mob or possibly secret government agency), killer prays for forgiveness before shooting his family and “sending” his boy to Heaven, and officer argues only God has a right to decide who should live and die.
In HOSTAGE, Bruce Willis stars as Jeff Talley, a former LAPD hostage negotiator who has moved his divided family into a smaller, less crime-infested community. A developing hostage situation forces Talley to face some wayward teenagers, a cold-blooded killer and a wealthy family living in a witness protection program, as well as other ruthless, unsavory characters. Unknown to Talley, the father of the family held hostage is tied to an illegal organization. The secret organization he works for will go to any length to recover an encrypted DVD in the family’s mansion. Masked gunmen briefly abduct Talley and reveal they have kidnapped his family. Unless Talley recovers the DVD for the secret organization, his family will be ruthlessly killed.
HOSTAGE emulates the thrills of many other, more effective movies. The story is intriguing enough to draw in viewers, but holding them requires more heart and greater credibility than this movie provides. Most offensive is the fact that HOSTAGE revels in its gratuitousness. The foul language and violence are excessive and unnecessary. HOSTAGE may have a few moral messages and redemptive themes sprinkled throughout, but they pay lip service to an overall unwholesome project.