Double Willis, Double Hostage Negotiation
Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis - Tears of the Sun) is a former hostage negotiator for the LAPD who having lost a young mother and child in a failed hostage negotiation has ensconced himself away as chief of police in a low crime town in Ventura County. When three delinquent teenagers lead by the crazed Mars Krupcheck (Ben Foster - The Punisher) take a father and his two children hostage in their million dollar mansion they have bitten off more than they can chew as the father works as an accountant for a mysterious crime organization. Thrown back into a world of hostage negotiating, Talley finds himself facing the demons he hoped he had left behind especially when that crime organization kidnap his wife and daughter to force him to do what they want.
"Hostage" starts out on a sure foot with an opening salvo of scenes which introduce us to Jeff Talley and the failed hostage situation which caused him to shave off all his hair and seek a quieter life. This introduction carries on as within the first 15 minutes we have also been introduced to all the main protagonists and setting up the initial premise in a stylish but not over baked way. But once the necessary introductions are done the story swells as extra plot elements are introduced which although make "Hostage" much more than it seems on the surface are not executed effectively.
Part of the issue with "Hostage" and probably the main flaw of the movie is that in a house with a huge amount of high tech security and surveillance equipment not only could the 3 delinquents break in so easily but that once they have taken control of the house the youngest of the hostages manages to move around it undetected. At times I half expected this young hero to start going on a "Home Alone" style crusade against his captors, but thankfully he didn't. Even so this is one of just many of the elements which causes "Hostage" to be ridiculous although entertaining at the same time.
Ignoring the flaws "Hostage" does have plenty going for it, mainly that of Bruce Willis in the role of Talley and Ben Foster who plays the psychotic Mars, one of the teenage hostage takers. It is the performance of these two which make "Hostage" better than it should be. Bruce Willis returning to action duty actually calms down his "Die Hard" persona and displays his ability as a dramatic actor. Okay so we are not talking Laurence Olivier but his display of emotional turmoil makes the character of Jeff Talley more than just another action figure. And then there is Ben Foster's performance as Mars which is one of the highlights of the movie and although again is not in the league of say Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter, is in itself really chilling. You get a real sense that the character of Mars is not only sadistic but then also detached from the pain he causes. Despite there being many other characters, including one which sees Bruce Willis's daughter Rumer Willis playing his onscreen daughter, they mainly seem to be there just to add variety.
Then of course we have the action side of the movie and yes that means Bruce Willis returning to form when the climax calls for it. Yes it is over the top and in many ways visually impressive but for me lacks that killer edge which gets you shouting "Yipee Kay Aye". It feels that despite endeavouring to create a thriller for most of the movie the producers behind "Hostage" bailed out and resorted to type just to satisfy those who were drawn to it because of it being a Bruce Willis movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Hostage" could have been so much more, it could have been a really tense thriller which benefits from Willis's charisma and ability as an action hero. But instead you watch "Hostage" and it comes across as adequate, never really pushing the boundaries, except those of believability.