|Rating:RATED R for Bloody Violence, Bad Language, and a Bong.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Ben Foster
Directed By: Florent Siri
Since Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day became such a hit in 2001, everyone’s been trying to capture the spirit of this new breed of “edgy” R-rated action films. Bruce Willis’ latest film, Hostage, is no exception. We’ve got a French director making his first-trip to Hollywood, an excessive amount of gory violence and villains who’re excessively immoral, and a total lack of anything interesting brought up by the plot.
The most interesting thing about the premise of Hostage, a film in which a hostage situation erupts – only to have the negotiating cop (Willis)’s family kidnapped by a blackmailing mystery man, was the tagline – “Would you sacrifice another family to save your own?” A moral dilemma like this could make for a great dramatic undercurrent that could inspire debate and discussion among filmgoers, or at the very least send some chills down the spine throughout the film. But, the question is never brought up, hinted at, or even considered in the film, paving the way for shoot-outs, stabbings, and all sorts of races against time.
I will admit that, Hostage is not entirely about the violence and action. There’s a lot of time spent on Willis’ character and his attempts to figure out a way to save both families. But never is the sacrificial aspect even considered. Both families are treated as separate stories by the script, which not only produces an uninteresting story, but also a disjointed one.
So, we’re left with a story about a cop trying to be God (or some video game commander, as he explains to the young boy who’s trapped in the house). He’s up against an invisible and ruthless sounding villain that has his family, while trying to make peace with the no-motive juvenile delinquents who’re holed up inside what other critics have called the “Panic House”, referring to David Fincher’s failure in the same genre, Panic Room.
Director Florent Siri brings a good taste of violence and bloody carnage to the film, and people looking for a lot of destruction will be pleased with the final act. Also on a positive note, Willis is his usual heroic self. But he also feels out of place dealing with three teenage misfits who’re either uncontrollably weak or unreasonably crazy (the group’s cannon, played by The Punisher’s Ben Foster, seems to have walked right out of the final act of a bad Italian slasher film) and a man in a mask who’s only selling point is a Willem Dafoe-ish accent.
Yes, we’re a long way from Die Hard, Training Day, or even Panic Room. Hostage raises no important or original points, features no twist that’s going to keep us guessing, and isn’t nearly as “hard” as it thinks it is. And if you’re going to make a movie that will kill a kid in the first five minutes or features a villain getting stabbed through the cheek without flinching, you’re also going to have to sell the viewer something more than that. Hostage doesn’t have enough thought or balls behind it to make it anything more than a standard action film, which is something it definitely doesn’t seem like it wanted to be.