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Would You Sacrifice 102 Minutes to See This Film?

Bruce Willis has carved out a niche for himself playing emotionally scarred men who soldier on despite significant baggage. Willis honed the quiet, wounded, forlorn countenance required for such a role in films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Twelve Monkeys. Hostage presents yet another opportunity for Willis to sink his teeth into a similar role, playing a former expert hostage negotiator who is haunted by the one that got away. So scarred is Willis' Jeff Talley that he has retreated to "Bristo Camino", a sleepy Southern California town where every day is a "low crime" day. This quiet existence is rudely interrupted when fate forces Talley back into duty as a hostage negotiator.

Debut director Florent Emilio Siri does a solid job of holding together a multithreaded plot that could have easily come unraveled under less able hands. Siri's only credits are directorial duties for the Tom Clancy inspired Splinter Cell videogames. Somehow, this seems appropriate given the amount of time one of the hostages spends sneaking stealthily around in ventilation shafts.

The pacing of Hostage is frenetic which is appropriate given the heightened tension inside the compound where the hostages are being held captive. Outside, it's no less tense as Talley is desperately trying to exorcise the demons of his last hostage negotiation. To complicate matters, Talley's own family is on the line as several masked thugs have tasked Talley to recover a DVD from the compound or his family will be killed. Hence, the tagline, "Would You Sacrifice Another Family To Save Your Own?".

Bruce Willis has the acting chops for this kind of role given his previous experience. Willis gives Talley a palpable air of mourning, regret, and desperation. He does a fine job; it's just not much of a stretch. We've seen Willis play this kind of role many times before. The only other performance of note is that of Ben Foster. Foster plays Mars, one of the young delinquents keeping the hostages captive in the compound. Mars evolves from creepy to truly terrifying as the hostage situation rapidly spirals out of control. Foster brings an understated malevolence to the character that is disturbing.

Hostage is a solid thriller that does a passable job on all fronts. There's nothing glaringly wrong with the film, but there isn't an area of the film that really excels or shines. Likewise, there isn't anything new or unexplored here. The one interesting twist in the film is given away in the trailers and the tagline. One has to wonder if Hostage could be considered an elaborate screen test for the oft rumored, Willis helmed Die Hard 4.0. Hostage could have used a little dose of John McClane.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars