aka Stuart Whitman sits at a desk pretty much the entire film
Mexico! Panama! Venezuela! Spain! Italy! Those are the countries this international effort was supposedly filmed in. Just knowing that, you probably are ready to sit back and be whisked away on a globe-trotting adventure with all the geographical verve as a Bond vehicle. Think again. If you can discern any identifying landmarks, let alone anything in this movie that you couldn't find on a two-mile stretch of a Boca Raton causeway, then you are quite the seasoned traveller. There's nothing remotely exotic about the locales. Therefore, the decision to film in five countries must have been purely economical. Each time the cast and crew ran out of money, they probably flew to Mexico, then Venezuela, and so on, to find another schmuck to invest in this picture.
With the varied settings of the five above-referenced countries splayed minimally across its background, "Hostages!" (subtitled: "Panic Makers!"...egad!) naturally takes place in Puerto Rico (huh?, go figure). It was produced and jerkily directed by the master of retread, Rene Cardona Jr. While this isn't quite the ripoff of, say, "Tintotera" was of "Jaws," you can still pretty much see discarded outtakes of "Desperate Hours" and "Dog Day Afternoon" stamped all over this picture. What passes for a robbery sequence of a casino tumbles into a "fugitives-on-the-lam" scenario. (The big robbery is shot so confusingly, it wasn't until later when I read the plot synopsis on the Paragon Video box that I discovered three casinos were supposedly being robbed!) In this case, it's not just two or three robbers scurrying out of the fire of the police, it's about a dozen fugitives running away from the cops! To say that we have no clue who is who, and could care less about any of these characters at the film's commencement, is to acknowledge the haze of dumbfoundedness we're first left in. After the majority of the casino thieves are dispatched in gun battles reminiscent of '70s porn "action" moments spoofed in "Boogie Nights," we're left with three desperate guys holed up in a wealthy family's house, holding them Hostage!
The only recognizable thespian in the bunch is the lovely Marisa Mell, 10 or so years off her role in "Danger Diabolik," as the matriarch of the well-to-do brood. She has a look of horror on her face the entire film ("Panic Makers!") which may have been caused more by the jet lag she suffered from needlessly flying to film in all those countries as opposed to the demands of her role. The thugs bark orders at the family members, the cops surround the house, the criminals take the family as hostages to the local airport for their getaway, and Stuart Whitman is finally relieved from his cramped desk setting. As Chief Inspector, he's spends the majority of the film having to sit at that desk saying timber-dry lines like, "Keep after them," and "Tell everybody to hold their fire" into a radio microphone. Were his scenes in the police station environs lensed in Venezuela? Spain? Italy? For all it looks like, Cardona could have just shuttled Whitman to a local All-State insurance office somewhere in the San Fernando Valley and not made Stu-boy leave his LA home longer than a half-day's shoot.
If you're rummaging for a bargain basement, garage sale of an action film, you can't get a better deal than "Hostages!" My rating: * out of ****.
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