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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Out Of the Frying Pan—

Hostage on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Hostage” opens with the camera panning a posterboard model of L.A. with the buildings darkened, set to ominous music. It goes to live action of seven-year prime hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) trying to calm a crazy Joe barricaded in a house with hostages. He's had a rough week: He'd worked three situations in five days. He's been cajoling this guy for sixteen hours, straight through the night. People get tired. Mistakes get made. It doesn't end well.

A year later we find Talley has left black L.A. with its endemic crime to serve as police chief of the small, upscale hamlet of Bristo Camino with its ho hum, negligible criminality. His wife Jane (Serena Scott Thomas) and his teen-aged daughter Amanda (Rumer Willis) still reside in L.A. but come to visit him from time to time. The former is supportive, the latter antagonistic (“My life sucks since Dad moved up here.”)

There is trouble in paradise. Marshall “Mars” Krupcheck (Ben Foster) is a “classic foster product” having “at three-years-old witnessed daddy kill mommy, then seen daddy kill himself.” He went on to rob convenience stores, disregarding human life, and at 23 he hijacks cars. He now has the two brothers Dennis at 19 (Jonathan Tucker) and Kevin at 16 (Marshall Allman) under his wing. Their father was “a real s.o.b.” and their mother Mary Ann Kelly strung out. The three losers do a home invasion with the intent of jacking an Escalade from the garage. A silent alarm alerts the police.

cop writing ticketharlotOblivious Talley at the police station is lecturing his one black officer Mike Anders (Ransford Doherty) about his informal attire—red sneakers—not being conducive to public respect for police officers—we're not sure what to do about his black skin, but that's their problem not ours. The owner of the Escalade Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) is lecturing his teenaged daughter Jennifer (Michelle Horn) about her revealing T-shirt being “an invitation to men.” The alarm comes in to the station. Their one Hispanic officer Carol Flores (Marjean Holden) goes to answer it with­out any backup. She comes to grief.

puppy dogaccountant at deskAfter Talley drags her body into his cruiser, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department arrives, and he relin­quishes lead to its Capt. Laura Shoemaker (Tina Lifford), a negress and the only black among them—whose Ventura County all-white jury, you may recall, earlier acquitted the officers in the Rodney King beating. Mean­while, men dressed in black kidnap Talley's family and kill their dog, using them as leverage to force him to reassert his jurisdiction over the invasion and let them retrieve a financial instrument from within the house, which Mr. Smith their accountant had earlier prepared for them. They have every confidence Talley can prevail over the objections of Capt. Shoemaker, she being used to disrespect on account of her skin color and inviting it for her sex. It was a good call, though the gal sure put up a fuss.

volunteers neededTo get a look at the demanded document, Talley goes about to extract an injured Mr. Smith from the house. He volunteers Ridly (Michael D. Roberts) the one black EMT on the scene (“Get Ridly up here”) and uses his under­dressed officer Mike as the ambulance driver. They all strip down to their boxers to show they're unarmed. As the ambulance is backing up to the garage, its rear doors wide open with all that black skin exposed, and at least one of the punks in the house armed and hate-filled, the out­come is uncertain. If they get snuffed, Capt. Shoe­maker would likely be blamed and lose her position, thus eliminating in one fell swoop every black from: the police force, the ambulance crew, and the sheriff's position.


royal flushOne of Kenny Rogers's songs concerned a chance meeting with “The Gambler” on a train, who offered the passenger the advice that “the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.” The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away, Know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This wisdom of the gambling man's repartee is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in, (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A grey­hound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

Daniel's accusers fed to lionsWe have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any,” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to fold 'em” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects experiences no uprising. “Hostage” serves up various bidding wars where two or three parties face off trying to assert dominance much as one would find in a large poker game where the action moves among various players, a few at a time bidding against each other for the pot. Here there are colleagues, criminals, kin, and cops in an expansive game.

dwarf goatWe have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” The prime hostage negotiator was burned out on the job. He took a low stress position in another town. When an unlikely hostage situation was dumped on his door­step, he stepped aside to let the county sheriff handle it. Smart move, that.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers's “Know[ing] when to run.” When Mars starts coming after the Smith children in the crawl space (“He's coming,”) they rabbit on ahead (“C'mon, follow me”) in a hurry (“Go, go, go”) to avoid their pursuer (“Go faster, go faster”) and not get caught (“C'mon, you've gotta go faster!”)

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

If Talley can prevail against the first hostage takers, he's still got the deadlier ones to contend with.

Production Values

” (2005) was directed by rookie Florent Emilio Siri. It was based on a novel by Robert Crais and adapted for screen by Doug Richard­son. It stars Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak and Serena Scott Thomas, along with Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Jimmy Bennett and Marshall Allman. Bruce Willis did a fine job as expected and seems to have elevated the other actors for performing with him. Willis's daughter in the movie, Amanda, was played by his real-life daughter Rumer who wanted the part, but her dad made her audition for it like every­one else. The three home invaders were scripted as older, more hardened criminals but were replaced with budding hoodlums, along the lines of the sentiments in an Ian Rankin novel:

“—the four crew. Have you got anyone in mind?”

“You want them young,” Chib stated. “Means they're hungry, on top of which there's all that tes­tos­­terone … makes them even scarier.” (103–4)

Eye-catching Michelle Horn rules her scenes playing Smith's head­strong daughter.

MPAA rated it R for strong graphic violence, language and some drug use. The pace is relentless. The tension is palpable. Runtime is 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

MadonnaThe first perp, that Talley spares, is White, who prays to [Jewish] Joseph & Mary before his last hurrah. The last one, whom he nails big time, dresses all in black: helmet, face mask, and/or grease­paint. This doesn't necessarily mean Talley is racist, but if a potential movie­goer harbors feelings about it, one way or another, he might want to take that into consideration before purchasing the DVD. Other than that, it's a winning action/thriller with more elaborate plot twists than usual.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Lions den picture is copyright © Sweet Publishing. Licensed by FreeBibleimages. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Rankin, Ian. Doors Open. Copyright © 2010 by John Rhebus Limited. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010. Print.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. "The Gambler." Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. WEB.