Less talk, more mayhem

Bruce Willis and French director Florent Siri take no prisoners

UNBREAKABLE<br>Jonathan Tucker plays a bad kid who doesn’t know what he’s up against, as he and his fellow hostage-takers face off against super-cop Bruce Willis in <i>Hostage</i>.

Jonathan Tucker plays a bad kid who doesn’t know what he’s up against, as he and his fellow hostage-takers face off against super-cop Bruce Willis in Hostage.

Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Michelle Horn and Kevin Pollak. Directed by Florent Emilio Siri. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

After a hostage situation goes tragically awry, veteran LAPD negotiator Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) relocates his family to the seemingly sedate refuge of Ventura County, assuming the duties of chief of police for the upscale community of Bristo Camino.

Of course, no town is complete without the presence of the economically disadvantaged, some of whom have no grasp of the concept of a work ethic. Three of these budding young thugs take a shine to one local’s new Cadillac SUV and follow him up to his secluded mountain estate, larceny in mind.

Unfortunately, one of the hooligans (Six Feet Under‘s Ben Foster) is also a raging sociopath. So, as one thing leads to another, the chief finds himself confronted with another hostage situation, with the estate of the SUV owner (Kevin Pollak) in lockdown and his provocatively dressed daughter and precocious preteen son in the hands of the armed, dangerous and desperate thugs. And, the loony-toon among them is looking at the young girl with ill intent.

None too eager to resume his old vocation, the chief hands the negotiations over to the county. But little does he realize that Pollak’s seemingly innocent accountant is actually a laundryman for some seriously dangerous people, and within the estate is some very valuable information. Before you can say Die Hard, the chief is forced to return to action-hero mode to save not only the trapped family, but also…

I’ll say no more. With his 2002 nod to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Nid de Guêpes (released in the States as The Nest), French director Florent Emilio Siri showed a knack for style over substance, and with his video game background (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell) he brings an olio of both to the table here.

Based on the novel by Robert Crais, Hostage isn’t exactly the most tightly plotted exercise, but Siri imbues the proceedings with a gritty realism infused with a noir sensibility that pummels the senses until one doesn’t notice how jerry-rigged the narrative really is until after leaving the theater. What seems at first blush to be a typical Willis actioner instead inverts the clichàs and takes the violence to a more realistic, brutish level. For extra measure Siri throws in some odd stylistic flourishes (such as a morbid pietà and a disconcerting riff on the Madonna/whore complex) and indulges in the poetry of mayhem.

As a man given an unimaginable challenge by circumstance, Willis is in grim mode, head shaven and jaw tightly clenched, with bon mots at a terse minimum. Here he plays out his character in a more realistic manner than usual, voice cracking and body shaking with the building stress of his internal conflicts.

While ultimately disposable entertainment for the morbidly minded, Hostage manages to deliver just what it promises.