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March 15, 2005

"Hostage" will keep you captivated

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Bruce Willis makes a good everyman's hero. Any one who has seen the "Die Hard" series, which runs 47 times a day on USA Network, knows that his movies are definitely entertaining and that he does a good job in all of them. "Hostage" doesn't just fit the Willis thriller formula; it does a better job than most hostage thrillers have done in terms of telling a story and making it believable and entertaining the
whole way through. The acting is outstanding, the plot is clever and what comes together is one of the best movies of the first part of the year. Really.

Willis plays shamed former LAPD hostage negotiator Jeff Talley who left Los Angeles after botching a hostage situation that resulted in the death of a mother and her young child. He leaves the city and heads north to be the police chief in quiet and upscale Ventura County, California. He seems to carry the baggage of the fateful
negotiation with him to Bristo Camino, and appears- gasp!- human. Willis impressed me with this role.

Three teenagers in Bristo Camino led by Mars Krupchek (Ben Foster), attempt to streal a car. After the plot goes awry, the teens do what most panicky kids would do; take the family hostage, putting Talley in a situation he never wanted to be in again.

The opener, where two die at the hands of a madman due to Talley, sets his personality up perfectly. He has a wife and young child too, and the viewer immediately should be able to empathize with the grizzled and troubled Talley. Willis is very convincing in the role from start to finish.

That said, there are some implausibilities that may rankle some who watch the movie. The kids happen to try and rob a wealthy accountant, whose hillside mansion is heavily fortified with bulletproof glass. Who has bulletproof glass? While it's weird, the fact that it ends up shielding the boys from the police is ironic and only adds to the drama.

I was surprised at how good the acting was. "Hostage" focuses less on sheer action and is more of a character-based thriller, which made the movie that much more engrossing. Foster develops Krupchek extremely well as the mysterious teenaged ringleader who gets in way over his head. Jonathan Tucker plays Dennis Kelly, the older brother with a softer side very well. Sure, its cliché, but the characters work here.

The plot constantly changes and is hardly predictable. Even when I saw "Collateral," another great thriller, I figured out the ending about 30 minutes in to the film. Here, the major twist occurs after Talley leaves the scene only to find out that his own family has been taken hostage as leverage. Hence the tagline, "would you risk another
family's life to save your own?" How the movie goes on from there is thrill-packed, ending with a great climax that wraps up how both families end up as a result of the hostage.

Willis does another outstanding job playing the everyman's hero. It's the role he was made for, and he does yet another fantastic job in this film. The breakout star of the film is Foster, who got his first major-production role in this movie and does a great job as the troubled and mysterious Krupchek.

Michelle Horn is perfect in the role of the captured teenage daughter Jennifer Smith, and her shrieks and general tone towards the end of the movie set the pace of the film well. I hope that Horn and Foster use this role as the base of any other acting audition they have in the future because they really help make this film as good as it is.

Director Florent Emilio Siri ("Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell") does a great job of developing all the characters from start to finish, beginning with a cool intro all the way to the end of the film. Yes, this type of movie has been done before, but Siri does the thriller genre justice in "Hostage."

Sure, those who like to nitpick will belabor the cliché characters and the fact that there have been a billion hostage movies before. But if you're some one who just wants to watch an exciting movie for two hours this weekend, "Hostage" is a safe bet. The engrossing drama and unpredicable plot will keep any open-minded movie fan very entertained.

"Hostage" (113 minutes) is rated R for strong graphic violence,language and some drug use.



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