Director: F. Gary Gray
Running time: 139 minutes
Synopsis and Evaluation
We’ve seen them in a lot of action flicks being made in the past and present. They are the suave smooth-talkers that persuade criminals to free their innocent hostages. They listen to the demands of the oft-discombobulated hostage-taker no matter how unreasonable. They make counter-offers in order to buy time in order to plan something more concrete and effective. But more often than not, they are just a minor part of the plot used for dramatic effect. In The Negotiator however, they take center stage.
The film started with a tension-filled hostage scene involving a father withholding his daughter by a gun. Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson) is a respected and reputable police officer whose asset is his loud mouth. He has been a negotiator for the past 20 years. Without further ado, the film imposed early on the character of Danny. This is a good thing so that the plot could quickly advance to the film’s main course. He saved the daughter and because of this accomplishment, a celebration of music and liquors followed. In the middle of this stress-reliever, his good friend Nathan asked him for a quick minute to talk. He learned that somebody on the inside are embezzling the disability funds set up for the benefit of police men like him. This triggered a string of events (one involving the murder of Nathan) that led to Danny Roman’s involvement in a serious crime.
With pessimism about the case consuming Danny, he felt that he must do something drastic not just to clean his name but to bring justice to Nathan’s death. This presented the central irony of the film – a negotiator that must be talked out to free his own hostages. With Danny on the other side of the fence, he issued demands like a stereotypical hostage-taker including a request for Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey). Chris is also a negotiator that once talked for 55 hours in order to save a hostage by peaceful means.
Chris is a perfect contrast to Danny’s personality — he is low-key, calm, mild-mannered as opposed to Danny’s loud-mouthed and flamboyant attitude. This dualism set up a beautiful set of interplays between the two via tight retorts and good delivery from both. A minor gripe in the film is Danny’s excessive announcement of his accomplishments and work experience. OK, we get the point already that you are good and old. We are not dumb-asses to not understand it the first time we heard it. The two leads, while they have churned out better performances in other movies, delivered the needed output a film like this needs. The supporting cast quite complemented the leads especially Paul Giamatti who is responsible for a few laughs and chuckles in this suspense thriller.
With Chris learning of Danny’s innocence and good intentions, he helped him find his way out of this mess. As with most Hollywood movies, this movie’s mantra is “all’s well that end’s well.” But how the film arrived to its Hollywoodish conclusion proved to be somewhat fresh… which is certainly a good thing.
The Final Word
This is a solid action film that manages not to deteriorate your brains. It offers enough blood, gun fight and tension that blend in together satisfactorily. While it does not break new ground for the genre, it’s the perfect popcorn movie to watch when there’s nothing else to do.