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"Hostage" - an artistic thriller from the Bruce Willis canon - CinemaDave

Mar. 17th, 2005 08:20 pm "Hostage" - an artistic thriller from the Bruce Willis canon

John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis have
established their own unique niche in the action
genre. Often the plot and situations would be
similar, but with a variation that comments on the
action hero. From "Rio Bravo" to "El Dorado,"
John Wayne portrayed a community leader who must
confront aging while defending the community.
Eastwood's man with no name persona under went a
religious transformation from "High Plains Drifter"
to "Pale Rider." With "Hostage," Willis
reflects upon the similar character he created in
films like "Striking Distance," "Mercury Rising,"
and his "Die Hard" trilogy. The final result is a
unique motion picture that will be better appreciated
in the future than current box office results.

Based on the book by Robert Crais, the film opens
during a tough hostage negotiation in urban Los
Angeles. Despite Talley's (Willis) best efforts, the
stand off ends in tragedy. A year later Talley becomes
the chief of police in a quiet suburban community that
looks eerily like modern Lighthouse Point. At this
point, we are introduced to two set of people. A
upper class accountant's family and three teenage punks
with criminal motivations. The family has recently
moved into a Frank Lloyd Wright home. The family
consists of Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack), Jennifer (Michelle Horn), a private
school student who dresses slutty and studies the
zodiac. Tommy Smith (Jimmy Bennett) is a boy genius.

Mars (Ben Foster) and the Kelly Brothers (Jonathon Tucker and Marshall Allman)
break into a house and bungle the robbery. A
police officer is shot and Sheriff Talley must negotiate a
peaceful solution. The situation gets more complicated
when Sheriff Talleys's family is kidnapped by the mob.
Sheriff Talley is told that no one can enter the house
until the mob obtains a secret disk of money
laundering schemes. Talley caught between Scylla and
Charybdis.

"Hostage" unfolds at a pleasurable pace. The
situations create a psychological dynamic that grips
the audience. Though Talley is the leading character, the
six other lead characters are defined enough to keep
character conflict and surprise at a maximum. The
action sequences are well directed and the inferno
finale allows for some artistic flourish featuring
angelic and demonic motifs.

There is a beauty and beast dynamic between Jennifer and
Mars, the psycho leader of the gang. She is
calculating as he is unpredictable. As two brothers
seduced by psychopathic peer pressure, Tucker and Allman
bicker like the Smothers Brothers and are doomed to
meaningless fate. While on the opposite side of the
law, Willis and Pollack share the same paternal
motivations. Despite intense professional demands,
both men want to protect their families.

"Hostage" does suffer from some false notes upon
reflection. Given the hostage situation, young Tommy Smith is too
clear thinking and does not seem too scared. While under siege,
the boy moves around the house with relative
ease through an air conditioner crawl space. Later
there is a chase between the children and adults in
the same crawl space. given the size of these elastic air condition vents,
one must wonder the electric bills must be in the Smith household.

As a whole, "Hostage" provides Saturday matinee
popcorn eating entertainment. If you miss it in the
that theatre, the film will make for an interesting home theater
presentation. It is fun to compare the Bruce Willis
action figure and contrast the characters between each
motion picture. Sheriff Talley of "Hostage" is a much more cerebral character than
John McClain of the "Die Hard" trilogy. At least Willis cast his own daughter, Rumor Willis,
in the role of Sheriff Talley's daughter.

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