Jeff Talley just wants to escape. As an LAPD hostage negotiator, he’s shell-shocked when a seemingly routine negotiation with a hostage taker ends in the death of an innocent mother and her little boy. The trauma causes him to pack his bags and trade in his high-stress responsibilities for a small-town police chief's badge in Ventura County.
He has to kiss peaceful goodbye, though, when grand theft auto turns into a full-blown standoff with Talley’s squad at a hilltop mansion. Three teenage delinquents are responsible for the ruckus. But there’s another problem: The house, owned by a crooked accountant with mafia connections, contains an irreplaceable DVD with financial information so valuable the mob kidnaps and threatens to kill Talley’s wife and daughter if he doesn’t retrieve it for them.
With county cops swarming the complex, the good guy now has to do a bad, bad thing. Is there any way out of this mess? Yep. Don't watch Hostages. You'll see why in a minute. ...
Hostage’s tag line asks, “Would you sacrifice another family to save your own?” This moral dilemma leaves Talley seeking a happy ending for everyone—criminals included. Though his marriage is on the rocks, he repeatedly risks his life for his wife and daughter. He does the same for a fellow officer and the accountant’s children (even though he doesn’t know them), many times looking down the barrel of a gun to ensure their security. At one point, Talley even saves the lives of the teen criminals.
One of those teens suggests that his peers not steal a car. When things get out of control at the mansion, he adamantly declares that no one else will be killed and attempts to save the accountant’s son on different occasions. The son puts his life on the line to rescue his father and to help Talley.
Talley’s wife consoles him after one of his officers dies, saying it wasn’t his fault. The couple then assure each other that their marriage will last.
Talley and his men seem to instinctively know that when a hostage taker begins to pray wildly, it'll only be moments before he begins killing. Talley offers up a personal prayer to God asking for forgiveness, grace and guidance. He then pleads for the heavenly help of Mother Mary, St. Joseph and “all the saints of God.” While speaking with the kidnapper, Talley mentions that “only God has a right to determine who lives and who dies” and offers to help him pray a “St. Joseph prayer.” Although the criminal says that “God decides everything,” he's convinced he's on his way to hell and vows to take a victim with him. Elsewhere, Talley mentions calling on a minister or a priest.
Dennis, one of the teen offenders, leers at the accountant’s daughter, Jennifer, and makes a vile sexual motion. (She retaliates by giving him the finger.) His cold-blooded accomplice, Mars, shares several creepy, sexually charged scenes with the girl, using a knife to spread her legs, tying her up, choking her, blowing cigarette smoke into her mouth and leaning on her breast.
Jennifer's thong underwear can be seen above the pants of an outfit that also reveals cleavage. Though her father tells her to change, explaining how young men will see it as a “sexual invitation,” she remains in the outfit.
Combine all three of the Die Hard movies and you’ll only begin to approach the level of violence shown in Hostage. Not only are lots of people shot, bludgeoned and burned, slo-mo (every-angle possible) camera work seems to celebrate their fate. Gore is all but omnipresent. Blood flies everywhere. Bad guys. Good guys. Pets. Even kids are brutalized.
When a little boy is shot (offscreen), the camera zooms in as his body spasms and blood pours out of his mouth. It later captures an up-close image of a man getting stabbed in the cheek—and then pulling the knife out, with blood flowing freely. Two men get their faces blown off (we’re forced to watch the bullet penetrate flesh on one occasion), while several other shots are fired from point-blank range. At least 20 individuals get shot in the back, the face, the hip, the chest or the neck—you name a body part, and somebody's got a bullet wound there—and virtually all show lots of blood. Men are burned alive on more than one occasion; one depiction is monstrously vivid. A boy gets tossed over a balcony railing to his death (we see and hear him hit the ground).
On a “less graphic” but just as disturbing note, a child gets whacked on the head with the barrel of a gun. The accountant’s son gets thrown around violently and later cuts his hands while trying to free himself.
Several individuals get punched or kicked hard in the face. A handful of scenes show bound victims screaming and pleading for their lives. A building goes up in flames with dramatic explosions after a series of Molotov cocktails are thrown. Talley plows his car through a security gate, only to have his car catch fire. Explosives are used to break into the mansion.
Mars is portrayed as being especially depraved because he is obsessed with—and enjoys—watching people die. Even noting the distinction between real death and the fake variety shown on the big screen, that still begs the question: What does that say about the millions of paying customers who are determined to enjoy this movie's graphic, parallel fascinations?
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word is mouthed, muttered, spoken and screamed (mostly the latter) more than 60 times. The s-word also gets a workout, appearing about 40 times. (It should be noted that teen characters say these words repeatedly, and that Talley's daughter uses both in an argument with her mother, whose only concern is that her husband overhears them.) God’s name is marred a dozen times; nearly half are combined with “d--n.” Jesus gets mentioned inappropriately three times. More than a dozen milder profanities and crude sexual terms add to the movie’s filth factor.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Talley is shown smoking early on. Mars light ups continually. Twice he offers a drag to Jennifer. She refuses, but probably not out of a commitment to abstinence; she has a bong hidden under her bed.
The Die Hard trilogy was a box-office smash, earning almost $800 million worldwide. It defined Bruce Willis as the leading action-movie hero of the late ’80s and early ’90s—a typecast he quickly tired of. “I got sick of running down the street with a gun in my hand going, ‘No!’ so I needed to take a break,” he says. “I thought the genre needed to reinvent itself and the stories to get a little smarter.”
Though he’s certainly reinvented his career by expanding his acting repertoire since then (he's starred in everything from The Kid to Unbreakable to The Story of Us), Willis seems ready to now resume his old shoot-first, think-later tricks. He's signed on to do Die Hard 4.0, and in Hostage he blows stuff up and shoots out the lights with the best of 'em.
Maybe he feels better about what he's doing since he handpicked and produced this “smart story” (as he describes it), transforming it from a best-selling novel into a big-screen adventure. “I don’t really see it as an action film,” he says. “I think it’s more of a psychological thriller as much as it has action and guns.” Whatever gets you to sleep at night. After sitting through two hours of this bloodbath, it strikes me as pointless to debate whether Hostage is a clever thriller or a shoot-‘em-up action flick. What it is ... is nauseating.