Take it from someone who ingests crime novels with an unhealthy passion; an original plot is hard to come by. However, Hostage is different. Though author Robert Crais may not normally be my go-to guy for great characters and plotting, Hostage is a masterwork of pulp crime fiction. It's wracked with tension, twists, a deeply wounded protagonist and a plot that's tailor-made for making the jump to film--all that's needed is a straight-ahead, meat n' potatoes director who won't get all fancy and screw it up. And while Hostage is pretty good translation of the book… well, let me put it this way: the director is French.
Bruce Willis stars as former top LAPD negotiator Jeff Talley, who suffers a breakdown after a hostage situation goes extremely bad. Wracked with guilt, he retires, becoming a police chief in a small town where life's great--until a trio of hoodlums knock over a rich guy's mansion, and takes the family hostage. An easy enough problem to solve, except for two things: One of the hoodlums is a raving serial killer, and the rich guy is an accountant for the mob who has some very damning evidence on the premises. Talley quickly finds himself trapped between stopping the killer and the mob, and racing to rescue the accountant and his kidnapped family--all while trying to keep a tenuous hold on his own sanity.
It's a fun, complicated, Die Hard-style of role that Willis excels at, so there's little point in criticizing him for replaying an old character everyone loves. And while the screenplay takes certain liberties with the book, it's nothing that removes any enjoyment from the experience. There's still plenty of tension, action, explosions, and more than a pint or two of blood. If there's any problem with Hostage, it's with Frenchy director Florent Siri who should learn to use a lighter touch when you have a plot this refined. For reasons unknown, he employs an unnecessary comic book style and an even more unnecessarily overwrought James Bond orchestral score. But overall, and to his credit, his gritty earnestness works-- making Hostage a fun, pulpy flick that will make you want to rush home and read the book.