Bruce Willis, guns, bad guys, revengeWe certainly know what we’re in for with “Hostage,” assuming we’ve seen the poster featuring Bruce Willis and his gleaming scalp of vengeance. It’s only a question of whether there’ll be any interesting new ways of filming the carnage.
In fact, there is ― one I can’t remember seeing before, at any rate. It’s a slow-motion shot in which the blood sort of leaps away from the body in beads and twisting strands. Kudos to some hack.
Willis, playing a hostage-negotiator-turned-small-town-police-chief, isn’t a bad actor at all, and he occasionally lets some human sunlight into the dank junktrap that this movie is. As he’s picking up a phone to talk to a hostage-taker, he tosses his gum aside with the other hand ―the unthinking motion of a guy at work who’s done this a thousand times.
When his character’s family is threatened (did you doubt that his family would be threatened?), Willis-the-actor has the integrity to sob, even drool, as opposed to fixing the villain in his steely gaze to let him know who the alpha male is. (Presumably he had a choice about this, since he’s credited as executive producer.)
None of which is to say that “Hostage” isn’t awful. The sadism quotient is fairly high. In the first 25 minutes or so, we’re treated to separate close-ups of two dead, blood-covered faces, in two unrelated incidents. (One is a child’s.) From a shot of Willis staring at the blood on his hands after a botched hostage negotiation, we segue to a shot of Willis washing his hands a year later. It’s the kind of subtlety we’ve come to expect from movies with names like “Hostage.”
There’s one of those remarkably resourceful movie children who, taken hostage by armed men, has the presence of mind to prowl around in the air ducts and keep the hero posted on the bad guys’ whereabouts by cell phone. There’s a floor-to-ceiling aquarium full of tropical fish; any time you see one of those in an action movie, you know what’s going to happen to it eventually.
The only way this kind of thriller can provide you with the bloody, feel-good catharsis you paid for is if you’ve been led to really, really hate the bad guy, and the ones here are established as hateworthy in their first scene, leering at the teenage girl whose accountant father’s suburban home they’ll soon violate. They have stringy hair, skull-like faces (I’d bet money that one was cast for his resemblance to Rutger Hauer) and drive a beat-up pickup truck. And when they do break into the house, the teenage girl, by chance, is dressed in a skimpy top from which her breasts will spend the next 90 minutes straining to escape.
The idea, it hardly needs saying, is to provoke the primal fears of the viewer’s inner Dad ―his fears that his expensive security system and his accounting degree won’t keep out the underclass cretins who want to ravish his daughter. And yet it’s hard to escape the conclusion that, considering the skimpy top and its contents, this movie is also trying to turn that inner Dad on. We’d all like to think we wouldn’t want our names associated with that kind of moral dubiosity, but who’s to say what we’d do if we were getting paid as much as executive producer Bruce Willis probably is.
Thriller / English
by David Moll