"Nobody wants to hear guns start going off in there." Bruce Willis's hostage negotiator Jeff Talley says this line twice, but make no mistake, he's talking to armed gunmen and not to the presumably bloodthirsty audience for this mechanical thriller.
Hostage is based on a highly regarded crime novel by Robert Crais, but the inner lives of Crais's characters never come alive in Doug Richardson's screenplay, and even if they did, they'd surely be drowned out by Florent Emilio Siri's loud, ultra-violent, and self-important direction.
Jeff Talley is the kind of cop cited for "flagrant disregard for protocol" but he has plenty of motivation—guilt over a failed negotiation and, ultimately, the protection of his own family—and Willis one of his sturdy if unexceptional action performances.
Talley moves off the beaten path, but courts trouble again when his quiet, adopted community of Bristo Camino conjures a home-invasion nightmare. Three bad-luck teens—one a hair-trigger psychopath (Ben Foster), natch—wind up in a face off with Willis and a collection of SWAT teams.
Panic rooms, hails of bullets, and lots of fire follow. Matters are further complicated by a DVD McGuffin that contains information incriminating to, well, someone. Someone repped by nasty commandos who arrange their own hostage situation. That's right, folks! It's a two-fer.
Once businessman Kevin Pollak and his kids become hostages, the story ruthlessly exploits the angle of children in jeopardy. When he's not screaming like a banshee, the young son of Pollak's character has a phone conversation with Talley. Holding back tears, Willis actually delivers the soon to be immortal line "Yeah, Tommy, Captain Wubba's gonna save Planet Xenon." Now, that sounds like a movie.