Published Mar 01, 2005Fans of the ill-advised are warned that this is the first big guilty pleasure of the year. Bruce Willis stars as a troubled ex-hostage negotiator who's been hiding as the chief of a small-town police department. Everything he's been avoiding comes back to haunt him when a trio of young thugs bungle a car theft and take its owner and his family hostage. Turns out the father (Kevin Pollak) is a mob accountant in possession of an incriminating disc and the criminals in question would really like it back; thus they kidnap Willis's family and send him in to negotiate its retrieval.
Like every other Hollywood thriller, Hostage is often ludicrous and riddled with inconsistencies, but it compensates with an insane earnestness and a willingness to go over the top. Director Florent Siri isn't satisfied to just tell the story: he has to pitch it at the top of his lungs with a maximum of hysteria and as much blood, snot, drool and tears flying as humanly possible. He's alive to the cruel irony of having to use one set of hostages to release another, and he's sensitive to the fact that the things that most heroes walk away from would traumatise actual human beings. I know I was traumatised by his efforts, failing as I do to remember the last time I saw Bruce Willis crying inconsolably in a movie, or a "happy" ending as comfortless as any this side of Douglas Sirk.
Hostage is so outrageously nasty (and so courageously downbeat) that you practically need a filter just to watch it, and while it isn't great art it sure is disturbingly effective. (Alliance Atlantis)