Hostage Blu-ray Review

On its surface, Hostage seems like your formulaic cop thriller and that wouldn’t be a far off notion. There’s been no shortage of films using the hostage angle as a narrative device, and in that respect, this film is no different. However, between a couple standout performances and director Florent Siri’s appreciation for film noir, Hostage not only stands out among the pack, but is truly enjoyable.

The film opens up with Officer Jack Talley (an awesomely scruffy Bruce Willis), an overly confident hostage negotiator that is in the midst of a hostage situation that is quickly spiraling out of control. When the incident ends in the worst possible way that it could, Talley is left emotionally broken and seen as a liability by his colleagues.

Cut to a year later and Talley has cleaned himself up and taken a job as a police chief in a small town, far from his previous stresses. Beloved by his new co-workers, Talley seems much happier, if not a bit bored with his new station in life. He’s also got issues at home with an eminent divorce from his wife and a rift that has grown between himself and his daughter. Unfortunately, these are soon to be the least of Talley’s worries.

Enter brothers Dennis (Jonathan Tucker) and Kevin (Marshall Alman) and their new friend Mars (Ben Foster). These three teenage boys reek of being up to no good, and, after spotting a rich family riding around in a fancy SUV, they decide to follow the family home and steal the car. Thus begins a chain of events leading to holding the family hostage within their own fortress of a home and killing a police officer.

Although he rushes to the scene to help his downed officer and survey the situation, Talley immediately hands over the power to outside help, knowing that he doesn’t want the burden on him. Little does anyone suspect, but the rich father (Kevin Pollack) is not such a good man himself, and his current situation is causing some of the shadowy men he deals with to panic. These shadow men decide to use Talley by putting him into a trying position where, if he fails, he could come away with a lot of deaths on his hands.

Although Hostage is a film with less acclaim than his usual roles, Willis really brings something to this character that we don’t often see in his repertoire: fear. Film lovers are well versed in Willis’ tough guy persona, but here he has actual moments of doubt and confusion and it not only adds a layer to his character, it adds some depth to an actor who may be a bit more known for being himself than by his actual acting chops.

The other stellar performance comes from Ben Foster. His portrayal of Mars is downright frightening, if a tad overdone. Whereas the two brothers come off as simple poor decision makers, Mars is truly sadistic and becomes even more so as the film progresses. Foster does excellent work here and it’s easy to see how he’s gone on to bigger and better performances.

As much as I enjoyed Hostage, that doesn’t forgive its share of flaws. The story tends to get mildly convoluted and near the end trades a true bad guy for more of the shadowy people you really know nothing about nor care to. It also, despite its best efforts, still falls heavily into formulaic territory and contains quite a few moments requiring the viewer to make some suspensions of disbelief. Nevertheless, this is, at its core, an action film and with that, it delivers.

High-Def Presentation

Hostage comes to Blu-ray with a very impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode. The entire picture has a muted feel to it, which aids in the gritty nature of the story, yet colors still seem to stand out amidst the drab palette. A lot of the film happens at night which could have been a problem with a lesser transfer, but here blacks and shadows look incredible and serve to make some of the movies tenser moments that much more. There are a few shots with some noticeable grain, but all in all it’s a pretty excellent presentation.

As good as the video is, the sound is even better. Lionsgate has fitted this release with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and it is truly immersive. There’s a lot to offer in the way of effects, from helicopters to machine guns and all of them find their way into the mix, taking excellent advantage of panning and really bringing in the viewer. Couple that with dialogue that’s crystal clear and a slightly creepy soundtrack and you’ve got one of the more impressive audio outings I’ve come across on the format.

Beyond The Feature

Hostage is presented with a fair amount of special features, although they are all ported over from the 2005 DVD release and are still, sadly, in lowly SD. Nevertheless, they do offer a little extra to the overall package.

Audio Commentary – Director Florent Siri provides a rather in-depth commentary throughout the picture, ranging from how the film came to be, Willis’s involvement, and various other factoids as well as touching on many of the technical aspects of the production. It’s very insightful, and although Siri’s English is a bit broken, it’s not off-putting or hard to follow. Easily the best special feature, especially if you are a fan of the film.

Taking Hostage Behind the Scenes (12 min, SD) – This is your run of the mill feature filled with cast interviews and on-set video. It’s not bad by any means, but comes off as a bit of a fluff piece.

Deleted Scenes (5 min, SD) – A couple deleted scenes that, upon viewing, make it easy to see why they were cut. Despite some added character development, these scenes would have definitely affected the pacing. The scenes do feature optional commentary by Siri.

Extended Scenes (2 min, SD) – Two more scenes; one cut for pacing and the other cut for gruesomeness. Again, it’s obvious to see why these were cut. Siri again offers optional commentary for both scenes.

Even with its flaws, I found Hostage to not only be a cut above its brethren, but also entertaining to the very end. Filled with twists and turns (some good, some bad), mindless violence and some stellar performances, Hostage is the rare action film that really shines. Add to that a keen visual eye from director Siri and incredible pacing and you’ve got an Action genre gem fit for any fan’s Blu-ray collection.

– Matt Hardeman

Shop for Hostage on Blu-ray for a discounted price at (August 23, 2011 release date).

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