Film Review Hotline
Spotlight Samuel L Jackson & Kevin Spacey
THE NEGOTIATOR
5 Stars

Samuel L Jackson & Kevin Spacey - both interviewed in this issue!


Stars: Samuel L Jackson, Kevin Spacey, JT Walsh
Director: F Gary Gray
Certificate: 15
Running Time: TBC
Opening Date: November 27
Sam Jackson’s juiciest role since Pulp Fiction.

Jackson plays Danny Roman, Chicago’s best hostage negotiator, who gets framed for murder of his partner and embezzlement. Understandably he flips and, coming from the inside as a respected Chicago police officer, he knows that people only really pay attention when lives are at stake. So, bursting into the office of Internal Affairs, he takes hostage the slime-ball boss and some terrified staff from the Internal Affairs Division. This way, he rightly reckons, he has a chance to buy some time and find out who is behind the frame up and thus (hopefully) prove his innocence.

Then he demands a negotiator of his own, naming another precinct’s star negotiator, Chris Sabian (Spacey), a guy he doesn’t know, but is familiar with his top-notch reputation. Roman and Sabian have totally different approaches to hostage negotiation – one is a doer, the other is a talker and it is this clash of styles that makes this entertaining action movie so appealing. Instead of blowing absolutely everything sky-high, they have riveting exchanges that reveal what the mine-field world of a hostage negotiator must be like.

Based on an actual occurrence in St Louis, this clever, if slightly over-long film has familiar characters and at times is slowly paced, but it sticks in the memory as an intelligent and gutsy Die Hard hybrid. Helicopters whizz about and windows explode, but the protagonists duel with mobile phones rather than semi-automatics.

Director Gray (no relation!) comes with little experience – his most notable film is homegirl drama Set It Off – but has blended his assured handling of turbo-charged action (the SWAT sequences are genuinely thrilling) with a fairly believable, well thought-out plot, obviously contributed to by the excellent Jackson and Spacey – old friends and on-screen colleagues from A Time to Kill. They have a certain screen chemistry that shines throughout their increasingly higher-staked conversations.

Apart from anything, it is interesting to see how hostage negotiators have to negotiate with real lives and the psychological approaches they use, like never saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (“I’ll see what I can do” is the phrase). There’s also a small master-class in the art of lie detection, which is going to come in very handy in the future.

THE NEGOTIATOR photo copyright Monarchy Ent C.V
Marianne Gray
Read our 17-page review section in this month's Film Review
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