“How can shit like this happen to the same guy twice?” was Bruce Willis’s lament in Die Hard 2, which shouldered both its Xerox plot and its body bags lightly thanks to a pervading air of jokey self-reflexivity. No such luck for the similarly repetition-compulsive Hostage, which stacks its corpses with the same baroque hysteria that Björk brought to the murder scene in Dancer in the Dark. Ex-SWAT Willis is a cocky longhair hostage negotiator in L.A. until a crisis slips from his grasp, leaving a mother and her son dead. No sooner has Willis shaved his head and moved to a PD in the sticks than three well-armed local teens attempt to steal an SUV and instead end up locked in a hyper-modern hilltop fortress with affectless accountant Kevin Pollak and his two brats. Turns out Pollak has some nasty dealings with guys in balaclavas, who detain yet more innocents . . .
Bruce looks hot and underplays handsomely as always, but Hostage is a steaming pile of siege clichés and screaming unlikelihoods. Much of the rescue strategy, for instance, hinges on the head captor never noticing that the younger kid is loose in the house, and the filmmakers scrabble desperately for a class subtext, pitting dirty-rich Pollak versus poor white trash, with Willis caught in the middle class. Once the craziest of the housejackers—the baleful spawn of a Crispin Glover-Trent Reznor hatefuck—gets a knife through the cheek and turns pyromaniacally love-lorn, Hostage begins to evoke the notebook scrawlings of a trench-coat-mafia goon.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2005