Film ó Hostage (R)
Hostage (R)

by Amy Diaz

Bad things happen to girls who wear belly shirts in the limp and dreary action movie Hostage, or Lethal Weapon: The Retirement Years as it would have been known had Willis been able to convince anyone of that title.

There are two overriding messages in Hostage. (1) Teenagers are bad. In Hostage, they are either criminals or the sluttily-dressed daughter of the mobís accountant. (2) Bruce Willis needs some money.

On that last point, allow me to propose something. Just as Iíve always felt that organizations could raise more money by threatening to invite people to an event than by actually getting them to attend (how much would you pay not to waste your time eating rubber chicken or selling overpriced wrapping paper?), I believe fading stars could get a fresh influx of cash by simply threatening to make lousy movies. Send me $20 or Iíll make Analyze That, Robert De Niro could have said. You know what, Mr. De Niro, checkís in the mail. I donít want to see you doing more cat humor in Meet the Fockers ó allow me to keep the image of Raging Bull.

Send me $10 or Iíll force on you Hostage, Willis could have said. Throw in a DVD of that Taming of the Shrew episode of Moonlighting and Iíll make it $15, I would have answered.

Jeff Talley (Willis) was once the hotshot hostage negotiator of the LAPD but after a standoff goes bad he gives up the life for a cushy job as small town police chief in hilly Ventura County. But evil clings to those cliffs just as Willis clings to his one-time box-office-champ image. Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack) may seem like a yuppie accountant with more money (and paranoia, judging from the overkill security at his mansion) than taste or sense but it turns out that he works for suspicious and dangerous people. So when three teenage misfits break into his house and hold Walter, his daughter Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and his young son hostage, the biggest problem isnít that these knuckle-draggers might make off with the SUV. The big concern is that their criminal activity might raise the attention of some shadowy bad guys who were expecting to meet Walter to hand off some sensitive criminal information.

After the three dumbest criminals in the world shoot a cop and trigger all sorts of alarms, Jeff and the small-town po-po show up to talk down the youngsters. At first, Jeffís happy to turn over the hostage situation to other law enforcement types. But then Walterís bosses show up to demand that somebody get them their DVD now, damn it, so they turn to Jeff and ask him to take over the situation to ensure that they get their files. As motivation, the mask-wearing baddies take Jeffís wife and bitchy-teenage daughter (remember message 1?) hostage.

I wanted to find something worth watching in Hostage ó mindless action can be as rewarding as any movie experience. But from the one-note teen villains to the shady mob guys to the screechy teenage girls-in-peril nothing about Hostage engenders concern, interest or even slow-down-to-look-at-the-accident voyeurism. The movie plods joylessly from one silly circumstance to the next, never really allowing us to build up enough information about the characters beyond their one-phrase descriptions to care whether they live through this or that situation or not. (Though, the little brother does have some impressive buck teeth and they, indeed, provide the movie with some of its most fascinating scenes).

Hostage is a movie I paid $7 to see but would have gladly paid twice that to have skipped entirely.

- Amy Diaz

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