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Film / Hostage

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Hostage is a 2005 thriller film directed by Florent Emilio Siri and starring Bruce Willis. It is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Crais, to which it is relatively faithful.

The film opens with ex-SWAT officer turned Los Angeles hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Willis) attempting to defuse a situation where a man is holding his wife and son hostage due to the wife cheating on him. Alas, he doesn't act quick enough, and the man shoots the two before shooting himself. The son dies in Jeff's arms. This leaves Jeff unable to endure hostage situations anymore, so he moves with his wife and daughter to the (fictional) peaceful suburban hamlet of Bristo Camino in Ventura County and becomes a police chief.

One year later, by which time Jeff's marriage is disintegrating, two teenagers, Dennis (Jonathan Tucker) and his brother Kevin (Marshall Allan), as well as their mysterious accomplice Marshall "Mars" Krupcheck (Ben Foster), take the wealthy Walter Smith (Kevin Pollak) and his two children hostage in their mansion after a failed robbery attempt. Jeff participates in the subsequent police standoff initially, but eventually backs out due to his painful memories. Unfortunately, it turns out that Walter has been laundering money for a mysterious criminal syndicate through offshore shell corporations. He was preparing to turn over a batch of important encrypted files (recorded on a DVD) when he was taken hostage. To protect such incriminating evidence from discovery, the syndicate orders one of their representatives who is known only as the Watchman (Kim Coates) to kidnap Talley's wife and daughter, and force him to return to the scene to call the police off. Jeff is thus torn between the Smith family and his own... what's a cop to do?

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Jeff takes some seedy measures—even though what he does in the name of saving his family from the mob threatening them, he has the unconscious Walter woken up by dangerous injections to get the location of an encrypted disk and gets his son, Tommy, to retrieve the disk in a manner that exposes him to danger.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Dennis might be a greedy prick out to rob the Smith family but he really doesn't want to hurt anyone and loves his younger brother Kevin.
    • Kevin himself is only a villain by association. He's dragged into the kidnapping, never hurts anyone, often vocally disagreeing with Mars and Dennis' actions and eventually tries to save the kids and leave when he's had enough.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Inverted; Tally went for a clean-shaven, bald look after his Heroic BSoD.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Jeff is antagonized by the group who take over the Smith's mansion (of whom Mars is by far the most dangerous) and the mafia leaders who threaten his family in a bid to recover an encrypted disk. Although the two groups are wholly separate, both are massive threats to Jeff.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Dennis constantly tells himself and Jeff that he's "the one in charge" of the robbery although it's clear he's in way over his head while Mars is the real threat among the trio.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although the Smiths all live and Jeff saves his family, while defeating the mafia, Dennis and Kevin are killed by Mars, despite Jeff's attempts to save them from him.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Jennifer Smith argues with her father at the drop of a hat (although, to be fair, he is keeping secrets from his kids), spends her screen time in a revealing shirt with the phrase "Burn it" written on it, and has a bong under her bed.
    • Talley's daughter expresses Small Town Boredom toward her father in a pretty bitter and frustrated manner.
  • Chained to a Bed: Jennifer Smith (Michelle Horn) is tied to a bed by psycho serial killer mercenary Mars (Ben Foster). She's rescued in the nick of time by her kid brother before Mars can do anything rapey. In somewhat of a fulfillment of the trope's page quote, Mars is later killed during a confrontation with Bruce Willis (although not shot in the face).
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Mars is clearly The Heavy to the movie, despite the mafia being a separate threat he's at the forefront antagonizing the Smith family and Jeff but dies in a climactic shoot out with the mafia's men and the last bit of the movie is spent by Jeff and Walter confronting the mafia directly.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard in... well, a house. The director called it "an art house version of the Die Hard films."
  • Downer Beginning: The opening scene features a failed hostage negotiation where a woman and child are killed.
  • The Dragon: The mysterious Watchman doubles as the Mouth of Sauron for the mafia higher ups and his death represents their loss of power over Jeff.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Mars goes along with Dennis and Kevin and lets Dennis believe he's in charge but his skills with firearms and ability to remain calm, unlike the panicked Dennis, show he's the real danger in the group.
  • Eviler than Thou: It's made clear the second Mars starts shooting at the cops he's on a completely different tier than the small-time crook brothers he's with. Jeff recognizes this after Mars kills one of his officers and constantly tries to save the brothers and convince them to remove themselves from him.
  • Evil Versus Evil: At the film's climax, Mars kills several of the syndicate operatives before succumbing to the injuries they inflicted upon him.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Jeff has already spent years with SWAT and as a hostage negotiator and comes in with the grizzled experience needed to save the Smith family.
  • The Faceless: The Watchman's face is never shown. It's always covered by shadows or by a ski mask.
  • Faux Affably Evil: At first Mars tries to act as a gentleman kidnapper to Jennifer but he's such a possessive creep that even his compliments and false sincerity don't come anywhere near sounding legit.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mars, who smokes cigarettes and marijuana joints, is the only character in the film seen smoking, actually works it into his intimidation of other characters. At one point when he has the kids tied up, he seemingly absent-mindedly offers them a toke while they're clearly scared and stressed and at another point puffs smoke into Jenny's face.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Whoever is buying the encrypted disk from the mob is so powerful and threatening that the higher ups fear for their lives if they can't deliver it. Despite this, the individual or group is never seen on screen, only a vague reference to their existance ever given.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Mars with Jennifer. So very, very creepily. Especially when he has her tied to her bed.
  • I Have Your Wife: Bad guy kidnaps Bruce Willis' family to force Bruce to get a DVD that incriminates him from a hostage situation going on elsewhere. After resolving the hostage situation and getting the DVD, he manages to kill the bad guy and save his family.
  • The Heavy: While both the home invaders and the mafia pose separate but substantial threats, Mars, the most dangerous and insane of the home invaders, is the villain most at odds with protagonist Jeff. It's his threatening of the family in the house and constant actions that give Jeff and his police squad the greatest direct challenge.
  • Impersonating an Officer: An FBI equivalent of this trope shows up in this movie in the form of syndicate thugs impersonating FBI agents.
  • Implacable Man: Mars when he chases Jennifer and Tommy through the vents. Even after being stabbed in the mouth, he chases them and continues his pursuit even after being shot with a machine gun, finally bleeding out as he tries to kill Jeff and the kids.
  • Hostage Situation: Naturally, this is the central plot of the movie. Bruce Willis plays a former hostage negotiator who quit after a hostage crisis gone wrong, but then the house of a family man with connections to a shadowy syndicate is invaded by three armed robbers who have to take hostages after a shoot-out with a patrolman. His own wife and daughter are kidnapped by the syndicate to ensure that he gets a specific package they need out of the house.
  • Important Haircut: Our hero played by Bruce Willis starts out as a stressed out big city hostage negotiator with a full, bushy beard and long, unkempt hair. In the second scene he is now a small town police chief who is a stickler about the dress and deportment of his officers; he is clean shave, head and face, having left the insanity of his former job behind.
  • Karma Houdini: The mafia higher ups are never confronted or punished by Jeff or any of the other characters, however, they were fearful of losing the encrypted disk, with the implication of threats on their lives which Jeff and Walter take.
  • Kill It with Fire: Much of the penultimate battle involves Molotov Cocktails, one of which ultimately kills Mars.
  • Lack of Empathy: Mars' be-all-and-end-all, he enjoys fatally shooting people to watch them die and stares at them with the same dull expression one would have cooking a favourite meal.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Mars uses numerous of these to take down the mansion with him.
  • Mugging the Monster: In order to recover the encrypted disc, the Watchman decides it's a smart idea to kidnap the wife and daughter of the local police chief, failing to realize that it probably isn't a good idea to threaten someone with over a decade of experience as a SWAT officer. Talley shows him why in the end.
  • Mutilation Conga: Mars gets stabbed in the mouth by Jennifer before she and her brother escape, gets repeatedly kicked in the wound, opening it wider, is shot with an automatic rifle through the chest, finally appearing more of a blood-soaked demon than a man and eventually giving into his wounds, dropping his own molotov on himself and burning.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The mafia higher ups seen communicating with one-another on the phone never directly confront Jeff, instead relying on the Watchman to communicate and after the death of the Watchman, their fates are unknown.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Mars responds to Jennifer saying she doesn't want to be with him by choking her and telling her she has no choice.
  • Protect This House: Inverted. As the movie title would suggest, the kids want the cops to get into the house to reclaim it. A good portion of the movie deals with the cops efforts to save the children in the house.
  • Retired Badass: Jeff now works as a small town police chief after a decade with SWAT and years more as a high profile hostage negotiator. Although he acts humble in the face of superiors at first, when shit goes south he shows everyone that he's the only one analytical and tactical enough to stop the criminals from ending the night in tragedy.
  • Sadist: Mars' preferred method of killing is by mortally wounding people with a gunshot and then watching them as they pass.
  • Siblings in Crime: Kevin, who just wanted to hang out with his big bro, gets dragged into Dennis' scheme to rob the Smith's and is made an unwilling participant in the act.
  • Silent Antagonist: After Jennifer stabs Mars in the mouth, he stops talking entirely, chasing them through the vents almost like a horror movie villain and becoming all the more terrifying for it.
  • Similarly Named Works: invoked The DVD is hidden in a case for the 1943 Ernst Lubitsch film Heaven Can Wait, but Walter also owns a copy of the 1978 film of the same name. Oddly enough, this doesn't actually cause any problems, as Walter's son just grabs both when Talley tells him the name.
  • The Sociopath: Mars is a quiet individual whose only ever seen smiling when threatening people. Unlike the two brothers, Mars also cares nothing for the money to be gained from the robbery and instead makes it his aim to kill as many people as he can. In his interactions with the family daughter Jennifer, Mars also displays possessive behaviour, saying she's "[His] girl" and assaulting her when she rebukes him.
  • The Starscream: Mars gets sick of the brothers when Kevin says he's taking the kids and leaving, killing both of them to continue his own murder spree.
  • The Stoic: Mars is a calm, collected individual and even though he's a dangerous psychopath, stays expressionless as he murders.
  • Team Killer: When Kevin gets sick of Mars' violent cruelty, he tells him he's taking the kids and leaving, in response, Mars not only kills him for his betrayal but then shoots his older brother Dennis dead, despite Dennis thinking Kevin had been shot by the cops.
  • Villain Ball: The Watchman. He reads off Talley's background as a hostage negotiator and SWAT officer while he is bound while arrogantly taunting him over his kidnapped family. One would think that it is probably a bad idea to be a Smug Snake to a pissed-off former LAPD SWAT member. It costs him his life in the end.

Alternative Title(s): Hostage 2005