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Devastated by an unspeakable tragedy while on the job as a hostage negotiator for the LAPD, Jeff Tally resigns and accepts a low-profile job as the chief of police in the sleepy town of Bristo Camino in Ventura County. On a slow Monday morning Talley's job becomes anything but quiet and sets him on a course that could change not only his professional but personal life forever.
When three delinquent teenagers follow a family home, intending to steal their car, they get more than they bargained for. The trio finds themselves trapped in a multi-million dollar compound on the outskirts of town with no way of escape. Panicked, they take the family hostage, placing Talley in a situation he never wanted to face again.
For more about Hostage and the Hostage Blu-ray release, see Hostage Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Florent Emilio Siri
Writer: Doug Richardson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker
» See full cast & crew
Hostage Blu-ray Review
We can only hope the title doesn't refer to the viewer.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 18, 2011
It's never a good sign when the opening credits sequence keeps cropping up in memory as the coolest thing about a film. Hostage's opening gambit is a wonderful, graphic-novel inspired riot of grainy whites and gorgeous blacks with huge swaths of red slathered across various photo realistic depictions of houses and landscapes where the names of the actors and crew are literally part of the scenery. Enjoy that coolness while it lasts, because once the actual film starts, silly melodramatics replace anything approaching logical consistency, and star Bruce Willis, seemingly wanting to simultaneously be a big action hero and an Actor (capital A, please), emotes until the roof really does cave in, to not much avail. Hostage is a big, extremely slick entertainment that is undeniably exciting, but it's also a cheat, a film that relies on solid directorial technique rather than coherent writing. The film's premise is so incredibly ludicrous that any attempt to wrench anything approaching verisimilitude from it is laughable at best, lamentable at worst. Hostage premiered in 2005 virtually simultaneously with another Willis effort, Sin City, and it's remarkable that Hostage's first sequence is eerily similar to the Willis segment of Sin City. Hostage, like the Miller-Rodriguez-Tarantino hybrid, finds Willis desperately attempting to save an endangered child from the hands of a madman, in this case the poor kid's deranged father. Willis plays hostage negotiator Jeff Talley, who in the opening shot doesn't exactly seem to be taking his job all that seriously: he's splayed out flat on his back on a rooftop combing his beard as he attempts to get the crazed gunman to release both the boy and the boy's mother, all three of whom are holed up in a ramshackle bungalow a few feet from the rooftop where a coterie of snipers are encamped. Let's just say that the scenario doesn't exactly end well, giving us our Damaged Hero, so necessary in films of this ilk which seek to shorthand actual character development with some pseudo-tragedy early on from which they desperately need to escape in order to find healing.
Fast forward a year and Talley has resigned as hostage negotiator and moved on to a role as police chief in the Ventura coastal community of Bristo Camino (the town doesn't actually exist). Director Florent Siri, never one to waste a foot of film, introduces our three main sets of characters in quick succession as they all drive within feet of each other in the first few seconds of the film's main section. In front of Talley is a dilapidated red pickup holding two brothers, Dennis (Jonathan Tucker) and Kevin (Marshall Allman), and their sullen compadre who goes by the nickname Mars (Ben Foster). We know these three young 'uns are up to no good because they're playing their bass heavy music really loud and then they (take a deep breath) litter right in front of Talley, horrified for a moment they're about to be arrested (it turns out they just might be wanted felons, but you already knew that). As we segue from that brilliant piece of exposition, we get family man Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack) driving his Cadillac SUV down a neighboring street with his spunky teenage daughter Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and adorable young son Tommy (Jimmy Bennett). Walter is obviously a doting father, and the kids are picture perfect in that Modern Family, squabbling sibling sort of way. Do we need a road map (literal or otherwise, considering how this sequence plays out) to know that somehow Talley, the hoodlums and the Smiths are going to end up "together"?
Hostage ups the ante in a couple of unexpected ways, which helps to at least partially mitigate how predictable this enterprise is, by and large. First of all it turns out that Walter Smith isn't exactly Ward Cleaver, at least not in his business dealings (did Ward Cleaver even have business dealings?). Secondly, and much more incredibly, as Talley attempts to extricate himself from the hostage situation involving the Smiths and the three pickup boys (I really didn't need to mention that that was coming, did I?), a mysterious group of hooded strangers takes Talley's wife and daughter hostage in order to get Talley to retrieve some valuable information from the Smith mansion. I mean really. (On a side note, that's Willis' real life daughter with Demi Moore, Rumer, playing his daughter Amanda in the film).
The rest of the film plays out as a multi-level cat and mouse game. "Game" is an especially apt description for Hostage for a number of reasons. Director Siri was the helmer of the ultra-successful Splinter Cell franchise, and he brings that same visual flair and mission-centric ethos to the film. But even the film itself plays on the idea of videogames and the like, from the graphically centered opening to little Tommy Smith's own insistence that Talley is going to save him and his family like Tommy's favorite videogame hero. Unfortunately, that videogame ambience is also what undercuts the film and keeps it from being realistic enough to really involve the audience. This is shiny, adrenaline pumping fare, but it has absolutely no emotional resonance whatsoever, especially odd considering the fact that along with the Smiths the hero's own family is supposedly in danger.
Willis is an actor who has mastered the hard boiled, buttoned down emotionless character as perhaps no other performer of his generation. He attempts to invest Talley with that same taciturn professionalism, while at the same time exchanging the occasional tearful emotion for his Die Hard character's explosive rage. It's an interesting try, but it's only fitfully successful, and the denouement, where Talley frees his family (I didn't need to tell you that was coming, did I?) is such a hyperbolic moment of anguished facial tics on Willis' part that it's almost unwatchable. The real surprise here may be Kevin Pollack, who manages to create a weirdly likable creep who's up to his neck in organized crime shenanigans but is also at his core a decent family man.
Hostage strains credulity too much to ever be much more than a graphic novel brought to life. When a cliffside mansion's interior waterfall turns out to be a major plot point providing a bit of saving grace late in the film, cynical viewers are going to be sighing and rolling their eyes rather than just sitting back and letting the film's manifold absurdities play out. If you've already defeated Splinter Cell and don't mind not having a controller to move Jeff Talley around on his appointed missions, Hostage is an agreeable enough time killer, but it's too silly to ever be much more than that.
Hostage Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hostage arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Director Florent Siri and Director of Photography Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci go for an intentionally stylized look which this Blu-ray largely reproduces to a tee. As is so common in films from the mid-1990's on, the image is desaturated at times and at others filtered toward the blue or yellow ends of the spectrum. A lot of this film plays out at night, and black levels are solid, though crush is evident in some of the darkest sequences. There's one really egregious bit of aliasing in those opening credits mentioned above—keep your eyes on the power poles early in the sequence. Otherwise, though, this is a very sharp and appealing transfer that boasts excellent (if sometimes oddly filtered) color that is very well saturated, abundant fine detail and a very clean and invigorating look.
Hostage Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hostage's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is one of the most sonically bombastic mixes in recent memory, one which should give any audiophile's home theater system a good workout. LFE is omnipresent in this film, from the usual suspects like rapid gunfire, but also from some judiciously used sound effects and score choices which keep the viewer on edge, if subliminally. Surround activity is very good and very forceful at times, with lots of panning effects (listen for the helicopters which dot the soundfield throughout the film) and good use of side and rear channels. Fidelity is very strong with incredible dynamic range. Dialogue is always easy to hear and is very well mixed in an often times extremely busy sonic array. This is one film where you may want to start with your volume control set a little lower than you usually do, for Hostage presents an extremely aggressive use of lossless audio.
Hostage Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hostage Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hostage simply has too much going on to ever maintain decent focus. The viewer is torn between caring about the Smiths and caring about the Talleys and ultimately ends up caring about neither. By far the best part of this film is the directorial craft Siri brings to it, investing a typical paint by numbers thriller like this with the occasional Art House flourish that at least stylistically sets this film apart from a lot of its generic ilk. This Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, so if you're a fan of the film or of Willis, this Blu-ray is certainly recommended. The public at large should probably consider a rental before investing in a permanent collection copy.
Hostage: Other Editions
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• Hostage and Swingers Blu-rays (Updated) - June 14, 2011
Lionsgate Home Entertainment continues handling Miramax catalog titles with re-releases of Hostage and Swingers on Blu-ray this summer. Hostage stars Bruce Willis (Die Hard) as a cop forced to negotiate a violent home invasion, while Swingers is a dramedy about ...
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