Review: “Hostage”

Yet another attempt by Bruce Willis to recreate his “Die Hard” glory days, “Hostage” tries to be one of those broad appealing action thrillers that rely on the usual stock elements. Amongst them a burned out cop forced back into action, a hi-tech location where most of the film is set, hostages, a family in danger, and an extra ‘twist’ element added to make the film seem different to every other movie of the ilk out there. There’s some big credibility stretches and a few plot holes, but if you can forgive or ignore these then, much like the recent “Assault on Precinct 13” remake, you’re in for an entertaining ride.

Kicking off with an impressively designed animated opening credits, Director Florent Siri keeps the film stuck to a rather dark tone (both a small animal and a kid gets shot) but never dwells in the morose because it would bog down the pace. His visual eye is also impressive with expansive camera moves and a rich dark color palette that makes the limited locales seem a lot deeper more varied than they really are. Willis’ lead character is the standard burned out cop routine out to seek redemption we’ve seen many times before. Yet it’s this gruffness without a sense of humour that keeps him compelling.

Also helping are an interesting mix of small roles. There’s always kids in trouble in these sort of things, but both of them – especially the young ‘whiz kid’ boy – prove decent characters. Likewise the three assorted hoods are played not as an efficient team but as desperate young guys stuck in a situation escalating out of control, not helped by the fact that one of them truly is a nut job. When the film follows the action and attempts to get them out of the house, it’s pretty compelling stuff.

Trouble is there’s some extraneous elements as well. There’s something hidden in the house the father (a disappointing Kevin Pollack) is responsible for and there’s assorted crooks out to get it. Thus Willis is blackmailed into trying to resolve the hostage situation so as to get inside the house and get what it is these guys are after. The scenes with these ‘other villains’ are effectively sinister and yet their ultimate explanation, not to mention the film’s final sequence involving them, lack a real feeling of completion even if onscreen it all is tied up in an almost ‘deus ex machina’ way.

Add to this the film runs a good 15 minutes too long, something which one especially feels as the movie reaches its conclusion. The serious tone keeps you in the narrative but without any laughs, it will be a tough slog for a lot of people. It’s flawed and if taken seriously somewhat laughable, but there’s an attempt here to do solid little action thriller and for the most part it actually kind of works. If you can get over the aforementioned scripting problems and cliched material, you’ll probably enjoy it.