Willis returns to action-hero role in ‘Hostage’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Willis returns to action-hero role in ‘Hostage’

Howie Nave
Police officer Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) must negotiate a standoff, even as his own family is held captive in "Hostage."

Can you believe it’s been almost 20 years since Bruce Willis first burst onto the action scene with “Die Hard?” That is still one of my all-time favorite action movies! It also made Willis a bona fide action hero and spawned two sequels from “Die Hard.”

Like the action movies he has starred in, Bruce has made quite a few bombs along the way (“Bonfire of the Vanities,” “Hudson Hawk,” “Breakfast of Champions” and “Whole Ten Yards” come to mind), but he’s also stretched his acting capabilities to give us some memorable, in-depth performances as well. I think “The Sixth Sense” proved that quite sufficiently, with him playing a child psychologist to Haley Joel Osment in that mind-bender of a film.

Still, there’s something about seeing Bruce take on the baddies when he is outnumbered while battling his own personal demons that endears him to us. I think that’s one reason that Bruce accepted the script and decided to make his latest movie, the action/thriller “Hostage.”

The plot is similar to other action movies he has done, where we have Bruce as a burnt-out police officer – in this case LAPD hostage negotiator Jeff Tally. He is wracked with guilt after one of his missions goes terribly wrong, resulting in the loss of life.

His own family life is, well, anything but congenial, and they, too, become distanced from him. He loves them yet can’t be with them, which sets up the paradox that will follow later in the picture.

There’s also the common thread in this movie taken from past Willis movies, where we see the man beaten down in his career, spilling over into his family life, affecting their lives as well. But it is his family’s safety that puts any self-doubt aside and re-charges the man who, once again, has us rooting for the underdog that we have grown to love over the years.

Oh, for you trivia buffs out there, playing Bruce Willis’ daughter in the movie is his real-life daughter Rumer Willis (who also appeared with dad in “The Whole Nine Yards”).

This is director Florent Siri’s first English-speaking feature, but he comes to the table with a résumé of psychological thrillers under his belt, such as 2002’s “The Nest” and the “Splinter Cell” video game franchise inspired by Tom Clancy. Siri obviously is a fan of the genre, but there are a few inconsistencies with “Hostage” that the quick eye will pick out. Won’t ruin it here for you, but it involves both the good guys and the burglars, so no favoritism when it comes to continuity. That aside, the movie overall offers an intriguing look at what can happen in the course of one evening in an upscale neighborhood where you would least expect it.

Based on the novel by Robert Crais with a screenplay by Doug Richardson (who also penned the forthcoming “Die Hard 4” set to be released next year), “Hostage” is far darker and doesn’t have those quips of humor like the “Die Hard” franchise did. No, here we get not one but two families whose very existence hinges on one individual.

You can feel the tension mounting as you see Willis’ character backed into that proverbial corner! The characters are far more evil this time out, but also twisted in a psychotic way, which makes for better bad guys when they are multi-personality types.

In one of his best roles to date, comic/actor Kevin Pollak turns in a stellar performance as wealthy accountant Walter Smith, who becomes a pivotal part of the plot. Walter finds himself a prisoner in his own home along with his family when forced to secure himself into a virtual fortress of a security system (think Jody Foster in “Panic Room” but with all the amenities of home) that turns his castle into a giant cell block where no one can get in but he can’t get out. Only Bruce Willis can crack this safe.

The bottom line is that “Hostage” is an exciting crime thriller with a few unexpected twists that will keep your interest throughout and, even more important, take your mind off of the mayhem happening outside the theater in the arena of life.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys every Tuesday through Sunday, and the comedian for The X Show every night except Monday. Howie appears on seven radio stations every Friday morning (including KOZZ 105.7) reviewing movies in California and Nevada.

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