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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Hostage (2005)



Reviews and Comments

Hostage is one of those frustrating films that sets itself up nicely, builds confidently, takes aim, and BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM shoots itself in the foot with sadistic abandon.

Some juvenile deliquents break into a millionaire's house, equipped with all kinds of fun surveillance toys, and take its occupants hostage. The three kids are made up of a cliched but effective group of stereotypes: the kid with no moral compunction, the kid wrestling between his peers and his conscience, and the kid trying to figure out which of the other two to side with. The stakes are escalated when they inadvertently interrupt the business of a crime syndicate.

The star of the film is Bruce Willis, who plays a fallen cop who gets a chance at redemption when he initially takes charge of defusing the whole situation. But his chance turns ugly when the crime syndicate takes some personal measures, changes his agenda, and puts him in a situation where he cannot confide in his fellow officers.

Through this complicated set-up and well through the second act, Hostage is taut, tightly paced, and revels in cinematic flourishes that, if they don't directly augment the storytelling, complement it well enough. But into the third act, suddenly the film sacrifices the narrative to laughably overwrought symbolism and weird metaphysics. In a single scene so powerfully wrong it defuses all suspense and derails the film, one character suddenly becomes the devil, impervious to bullets and fire, and another character suddenly becomes Mary for no better reason than that the actress looked pretty good with a scarf on her head. What's the director trying to say? I don't think he's trying to say anything at all. I think he just thought the imagery looked cool. The symbolism itself has utterly no bearing on the story, and the sudden shift into some other kind of reality sacrifices the pay-off promised by the first two acts of the film. Things spiral out of control from there and never quite recover.

In spite of this, the film is mildly entertaining on the base level of chases, explosions, and gunfire, and most of the performances are deeper than this genre usually calls for.