Like a hostage, we are captive.
There’s no denying Bruce Willis has based his career on The John McClane (which is something like The Tom Cruise, only a lot more tolerable) – that intensely smug, sassy maverick. That’s not to say he isn’t a great actor, but The John McClane has woven itself so deeply into Willis’s turbo-charged man-roles over the years that he and it have become inseparable.
Bruce Willis does some of the best acting of his career here, as a damaged cop whose failure can be read in his sad eyes. Part John McClane, part Sean Penn, part Harrison Ford, all thespian.
Willis is Jeff Talley, an ex-hostage negotiator who removed himself from the grimy Los Angeles streets after a negotiation went horribly wrong (we see this defining moment in a flashback indicated by Talley sporting hermit dreads and face-growth like Grizzly Adams) and now patrols the yuppie ‘burbs of Bristo Camino (say it like you’re eating caviar). His wife and daughter are not on the best of terms with him.
Into these bucolic environs, young thugs (Jonathan Tucker and Marshall Allman) led by crazy-faced Mars Krupcheck (Ben Foster) break in to a rich accountant’s (Kevin Pollak) fortified house, and take him and his two kids hostage (Michelle Horn, Jimmy Bennett). Talley is called in to negotiate but declines the rigorous psychological responsibility. Then we find out the accountant works for the Mob – and the Mob has taken Talley’s family hostage, until Talley agrees to negotiate and get their accountant back! Now Talley is stuck negotiating with the thugs on behalf of the Mob, and negotiating with the Mob to get his family! Excellent double down!
Reason enough for Willis to go Full Metal Oscar, never more apparent than in the tearfully-disturbing climax, as Talley sails over the edge and pumps round after round into a guerrilla who kidnapped his family – long after the guy is dead…
From a novel by Robert Crais, Doug Richardson writes and Florent Emilio Siri directs this well-executed actioner, ratcheting tension with all the right moves, raising the stakes with all the right emotion, ticking the clock with all the right desperation, and blowing things up with all the right abandon. And capturing a nuanced Bruce Willis performance that makes us suspect The John McClane has been taking acting lessons.