Miramax Pictures presents
"This is Jeff Talley. I'm with the local police. Are you the man in charge in there?"- Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis)
Stars: Bruce Willis
Other Stars: Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Michelle Horn, Jimmy Bennett, Marshall Allman, Kevin Pollak, Serena Scott Thomas, Rumer Willis, Kim Coates, Robert Knepper, Michael D. Roberts
Director: Florent Siri
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, language and some drug use
Run Time: 01h:53m:06s
Release Date: 2005-06-21
DVD ReviewThe guy may not be the kind of actor who gets deep, insightful roles, but when it comes to Bruce Willis it seems he was meant to play a loner cop going up against the odds. Fine turns in 12 Monkeys, Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable aside, there's something comforting about seeing him strap on a gun. The forgettable stuff like Striking Distance nips at the heels of questionable titles like Last Man Standing, but through it all he's got the smirk, the wisecracks, and when the Die Hard series shot him into the action star stratosphere his roles got consistently more varied.
With Hostage, Willis tries to regain his Die Hard-era hero status, and like ten million other films it almost works, but it falls apart when it matters most—at the end. Willis is Jeff Talley, and during the tense opening sequence, is revealed to be a seasoned hostage negotiator (sporting a Grizzly Adams-like beard) who unfortunately goes through a really bad experience when a "situation" goes about as wrong as it can get. Jump ahead one year and we find Talley running the police department in a small California town, and to make sure we know time has elapsed he is now completely bald. He has the requisite colorful deputies, he dispenses the expected smirky wisdom and everything seems fine as frog hair until a trio of teenage thugs (Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman) execute a botched home invasion at a massive, well-fortified home where they hold Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) and his two children hostage.
About midway through Hostage, director Florent Siri stages a neat twist—one that I'll refrain from spoiling—that puts his lead character in an unenviable and even more dangerous situation, and that little deviation escalates the tension level up a couple of notches for the second half, even with some silliness about Talley secretly talking on the phone to the youngest hostage as the boy crawls through a labyrinth of air ducts. The biggest problem comes from the conclusion, which surprisingly plays out rather lazily, peppered as it is with some plot conveniences right out of Film School 101 (ahem, air ducts). Siri boxed Talley into a real tight spot early on, and with Willis recalling some of that John McClane energy, the fizzling out seemed doubly frustrating. Or like I said, maybe just lazy.
The thing is that if I were to dismiss every film where the ending was anemic but the rest was up to speed, there would be very little to even remotely recommend these days. Fans of action-genre Willis (I consider myself in that camp) should take to this without much arm-twisting, because Florent Siri gets him to return to his usual likeable loner hero routine, and for at least two-thirds of the ride it was fun.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: A very nice job on the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Miramax for this one. Colors are rendered accurately, balanced by even, natural fleshtones, and even with seemingly two-thirds of the story spent in the shadows or at night, black levels are on the money. Some minor edge enhancement nudges this down into the B+ range, but otherwise this is a pretty one.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Look under the hood and you'll find a moderately aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, something that is certainly de rigueur for an action film. Not as big and boomy as those Die Hard discs, but the gunshots have a nice punch, the surrounds get used quite a bit. Dialogue is clear at all times, and the mix paints the Alexandre Desplat with rich and proper macho swagger.
A French 5.1 track is also included, if you're so inclined.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
0 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sin City, Scary Movie 3.5, Cursed
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Florent Siri
Extras Review: Extras include Taking Hostage Behind The Scenes (12m:40s), one of your standard issue EPK-type pieces full of interviews and on-the-set clips, with Ben Foster (who plays the thug Mars) seeming to get the most screen time. Florent Siri also chats up the tweaks made to the script, especially with regard to the age of some of the principles.
There are six deleted scenes (04m:48s), available with optional commentary from director Siri. There is some minor fleshing out of the relationship between the two brothers, and a nice scene between Willis's character and a doomed police officer. The Extended Scenes (02m:01s) segment has two clips, also with optional Siri commentary, featuring a longer scene between Willis and real-life daughter Rumer and a more graphic death scene for one of the main characters.
Siri also kicks in with a solo commentary, waffling between coming close to simply describing the action and accenting how the onscreen actions are character motivators. He has kind things to say about star/producer Willis (naturally), but the few brightspots are some of the tiny homages he tossed in for good measure.
Three trailers (including the droolworthy Sin City), 18 chapters, and with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish finish things off.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThis is not an example of Bruce Willis necessarily returning full bore to the Die Hard glory days of old, but I'll take him as a grizzled one-man cop army any day of the week. A couple of nice twists keep the story from just a simple rehash of stuff that has been seen before, though things unfortunately come up short during the climactic final moments when some lazy plot conveniences tie things up too neatly and too quickly.
Recommended as a surefire rental for Willis/action fans, though have a grain of salt handy so you can take it while watching.
Rich Rosell 2005-06-20