Hostage directed by Florent Emilio Siri, written by Doug Richardson from Robert Crais's novel, produced by Arnold Rifkin, Mark Gordon and Bob Yari, with Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jonathan Tucker and Ben Foster. 102 minutes. An Alliance Atlantis release. Opens Friday (March 11). For venues and times, see Movies, page 92. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The Bruce Willis-style action movie is already pretty moribund, thanks to the 10,000 clones of Die Hard, and this heartless, contrived, mechanistic thriller doesn't do a thing to revive it. We've seen the burnt-out hero before.
This time Willis plays a small-town police chief who's fled his L.A. hostage negotiator career after failing to avert a bloodbath. We've seen the punks invade the rich folks' home and the subsequent cat-and-mouse game before, recently in Panic Room. We've seen the inside-outside team repeatedly since Die Hard. Here, Willis is outside while a seven-year-old boy creeps around inside.
We haven't seen the faceless professional heavies who kidnap Willis's family to force him to retrieve a valuable disc from inside the house, but this doesn't happen until midway in. Besides, once his family's in peril, Willis sheds his timidity in the blink of an eye and turns into one-dimensional Action Man, as we always knew he would.
Willis can be a good actor - think of The Sixth Sense, Twelve Monkeys, Unbreakable, or even Die Hard, in which his absolute conviction helps carry the film. Here, the character elements are so downplayed that he's got nothing much to act about, so he just does standard Willis shtick. Worse, he has no one to hold him down, so he goes for those big grief moments he seems to love so much, howling with a gargoyle-contorted face as sappy music oversells the moment. The preview audience cracked up every time.
Florent Emilio Siri, who's directed a couple of euroflicks and a few video games, shows no sign of skill with actors or feel for emotion. Too bad, because a good thriller needs a good villain - imagine Die Hard without Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber or Unbreakable without Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass. But all Siri evokes is unintentional hilarity when the key punk gets his big, emotion-laden death scene. Just as bad, he lays in a big insert that totally gives away the final surprise twist.
It's probably not all Siri's fault. He's saddled with a bland script that equally neglects character and logic. Word is that scripter Doug Richardson has signed on to Die Hard 4 with Willis, slated for next year. He also wrote Die Hard 2. These are not good signs.