After achieving mild success with forays into comedy and family films, Bruce Willis has returned to what he does best: yelling and killing people. His new film “Hostage” provides many such opportunities, but surprisingly the film also provides a suspenseful and genuinely interesting story.
Willis plays police chief Jeff Talley who tries to defuse a hostage situation by negotiating with three young delinquents holed up in a wealthy accountant’s home. The standoff complicates a high-stakes criminal operation, as the house contains a DVD with important information for a separate group of terrorists. These terrorists then capture Talley’s family and force him to recover their property. Stuck between desperate criminals and professional assassins, Talley tries to save his wife and daughter without causing a bloodbath within the house.
Though the film has some clichéd moments, director Florent Siri prevents it from becoming just another action movie by emphasizing some of its more unique elements. Because the tension and the drama of the plot are prioritized above the special effects of the action sequences, the story becomes more engaging and the characters more realistic.
Likewise, the look of the film is unique to the genre. Rejecting the cinematography of typical action movies, “Hostage” favors tenser, more realistic long takes over the hectic style of quickly flashing images.
However, the film is not perfect. An excessively long introduction robs the main story of much needed development time, and there were some question marks in the plot. Though the terrorists are intimidating and have cool, sinister voices (they are hardly ever seen on-screen), the characters themselves are too mysterious to work effectively in the simple story given to explain their presence. And it is odd that the delinquents seem a more daunting foe for the authorities than the professional killers.
The film’s casting could have been better. Allowing Bruce Willis’s daughter, Rumer Willis, to play Talley’s daughter was probably a mistake; even that role seems a stretch for her. Also, the three young criminals look too similar to differentiate between them for the first hour or so. But casting Ben Foster (“The Punisher”) in the role of Mars, the disturbing lead delinquent, may have been the single best decision of the film’s production. In many scenes Foster steals the show.
“Hostage” proves that yelling and killing people can still be grounded in a strong story, good acting and clever filmmaking techniques. To indulge in an action movie without being berated by action-movie conventions, “Hostage” comes highly recommended.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars