If Hostage were a good movie—and, despite an intriguing moral premise and some obvious skill on the part of its makers, it isn't—it would be tempting to call it the quintessential Bruce Willis movie. Like The Sixth Sense, it begins with Willis playing a professional whose faith in his own skills is shattered when a person he was trying to help commits suicide. Like Die Hard, it features a hostage who eludes his captors and makes contact with cops on the outside while crawling around in air ducts. Like Mercury Rising and The Kid, one of the most important relationships in the film is between Willis and a young boy. And like, uh, The Whole Ten Yards, it co-stars Kevin Pollak as someone with ties to the mob.
Okay, so not every related film that comes to mind is a winner, but Hostage does have its strengths. For those of us who think Willis is at his best when he plays more vulnerable characters—and for those of us who have been disappointed these last few years as Willis smugly smirked his way through a string of lame comedies, with occasional detours into serious-minded, stone-faced fits of bravado such as Tears of the Sun—it is refreshing to see him play a human being once again, even in something as pulpy as this.
This time, Willis plays a police officer named Jeff Talley, and our first glimpse of him, when he is a hostage negotiator with the LAPD, does, admittedly, come across like it was scrawled on a napkin in screenwriter shorthand. Talley, perched on the roof of a building along with several other cops, is on the phone to an armed man who has taken his own wife and son hostage, and as if to prove to his fellow officers how calm he can be under pressure, Talley lies back and leisurely combs his ...1
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