Friday, April 08, 2005


By Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie

HOSTAGE would seem to be a desperate attempt to revive Bruce Willis’ image as an action hero, but what the film was, turned out to be more than just another usual action flick, for it proved to be a very interesting suspense-mystery. From the outset of the three-sentence synopsis, one cannot easily assume what the film is all about. The movie is about a mansion seized by armed intruders. If the intruders were terrorists armed with high-powered firearms and thick foreign accents, you have the stereotype action flick; you have a Jerry Bruckheimer flick. But HOSTAGE strays from that formula. The intruders here are three juvenile offenders. Kids who may be clumsy or may be too young to clearly comprehend the consequences of what they’re doing. On this day and age, such an occurrence is not outrageous fiction anymore especially when you take into consideration the juvenile violence associated with incidents, like the Columbine School Shootout in the US, and the numerous cases of juvenile frat wars in Metro Manila and even here in our city as well. As the juvenile intruders have taken siege of the mansion of a local rich guy, Walter Smith (played by Kevin Pollak), his daughter Jennifer (Michelle Horn) and son Tommy (Jimmy Bennett), the hostage drama thickens when we discover that very powerful, shady people have vested interest upon whatever happens to the hostages, and can easily kill anybody who stands in their way. Local Police Chief Jeff Talley (played by Bruce Willis) is summoned by circumstance to face the crisis. But will he get to solve the crisis in time? Or can the situation get worse as it is?

(The following may contain film spoilers)
This is a hostage drama, which is far more complicated since the hostage-takers are kids: clumsy, emotional, impulsive, and very immature, especially under extreme pressure. Also adding to the thrill of the film is that the mansion where the incident is set, is very much equipped with high-tech security machinations, hidden cameras and secret escape vents, which all add to the kind of suspense reminiscent of the films “Diehard” and “Panic Room”. Keen film nerds like me would also be reminded of how the 9-year-old character of the film Tommy Smith (played by Jimmy Bennet) who would play “hide-and-tiptoe” with the villains, crawling in and out of narrow shafts, remind us of Bruce Willis in “Diehard”. While on Diehard, the character John McClane would communicate to the Los Angeles cop outside the seized building, on this film, the 9-year-old character would communicate with Police Chief Jeff Talley outside the mansion. The mirror between the two Willis films amused me very much. Although the film is very much, an adult action movie, the 9-year old character seems to be the main action hero of the film. His character is like a young, helpless version of Macgyver, as he desperately rats out in dangerous circumstances of the film. Also worth the mentioning is the childish sibling drama between juvenile hostage-takers Dennis Kelly (played by Jonathan Tucker) and Kevin Kelly (played by Marshall Allman). Their childish conflict with each other is as realistic as it can be, up until the tragic end when you get to realize how important the interaction between the two characters were, in earlier scenes. Then there’s the third juvenile hostage-taker Mars Krupcheck (played by Ben Foster) who was a grittingly cool villain that reminds many of the Crow, and Nine Inch Nails vocalist Trent Reznor. He is sadistic as he is bizarre. His demented personality makes him a memorable villain. The online forums over the IMDB website even wished there was an alternate ending wherein he somehow survived the violent ending.

Although a prominent actor with films like “The Usual Suspects” up his credit, Kevin Pollak’s role seems minor on this film, nevertheless, it was nice to see him on this film. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, may have strayed from his cliché of action heroes for this film, because this film has an atmosphere very close to the suspense action TV series “24”, hard on the cliffhanger drama rather than the physical action. And Willis does one of his rare opportunities to indeed do some serious acting. His character on this film is well developed and very human. The kind that does take violence and death seriously, rather than the cliché action heroes that seem desensitized by the sight of death.

The film’s slight failure was that it failed to give a tight, satisfying end. In many other mystery movies, there are details that need no clear answer, and the fact that it is not given a clear answer, adds to the enigmatic beauty of such movie. But on this film, the unanswered questions revolving the subject of mystery destroys the entire build-up of the film. The audience is made to hold their breath so that they could open some kind of box that reveals all the answers in the end, yet, the end really doesn’t reveal anything. This is one mystery film that deprives itself of being thumbs-up movie by not giving up the hidden details. Sure there is closure in the end of the movie, but there is no impact whatsoever by disregarding the rest of what the audience are craving to find out. Nevertheless, HOSTAGE is entertaining in satisfactory proportions.

HOSTAGE is one of those films that may not bask in the limelight of box-office figures, but will indeed give moviegoers a good time. A film for those who love action films with a good sense of drama and suspense.

Check out the screening schedules of all the other films shown in Iloilo City on my website The screening schedules are updated regularly and diligently (Although schedules are subject to change without prior notice, of course).

Also showing this week on Robinson’s Movieworld is the new Robin Williams film FINAL CUT, which is an interestingly bizarre science fiction set in the future wherein microchips implanted in your brain record everything you see and hear. Then when you die, a "cutter" assembles the footage into a memorial video for your funeral, editing out all of the unpleasantness.

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