In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, inciting violent retribution and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.
Samuel L. Jackson
In the midst of an elaborate conspiracy, an expert negotiator is driven to the edge when he's framed for the murder of his partner, as well as embezzling money from his department's pension fund. His only chance to prove his innocence is to take hostages himself, acquire the services of another expert negotiator, and find out who's running the conspiracy before it's too late. Written by
Highly enjoyable if implausible action thriller - 86%
Regular readers of my reviews (all three of you) will know that one film that really soured my opinion of the Hollywood machine is the completely botched "Italian Job" remake - a typically stylish but ultimately shallow rehash of a perfectly good original. I was almost angry at director F. Gary Gray for trying to wreck my fond memories of Michael Caine in Turin so imagine my surprise to find him responsible for this earlier effort which is a genuinely exciting, if far-fetched, thriller starring two of Hollywood's biggest actors. Where did it all go wrong for the poor guy?
Samuel L Jackson plays police negotiator Lt. Danny Roman, a hostage negotiator with the Chicago PD who's a nice guy and all-round good bloke. After discovering corrupt cops helping themselves to the department's disability fund, Danny's world comes crumbling down after his partner is gunned down with all evidence pointing to him. Believing himself to be set up by Internal Affairs, led by Inspector Niebaum (J.T. Walsh) and Commander Frost (Ron Rifkin), Danny decides to take some hostages of his own in a desperate attempt to prove his innocence. Facing fellow negotiator Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), can Danny discover the truth before his one-time colleagues put a premature end to the siege?
Featuring quality at every level of the casting, "The Negotiator" shrugs off it's far-fetched scenario and becomes one of the most compulsive thrillers I've seen in ages. With the outcome never really certain until the credits roll, this is as good an example that I can think of of a film that has all the traditional elements of a classic summer blockbuster but remains taunt, thrilling and exciting throughout. Acting is a real strength of the film as Jackson, Walsh, Paul Giamatti and David Morse offer real depth to their characters and hold the film together with ease. Spacey looks a little out of place - he's too nice to play the stone-faced good guy with a mean streak - but his performance supports Jackson's wild-eyed paranoia perfectly. The biggest problems I found was that the story took a while to get going and when it did, it was actually rather obvious who the villains are.
I was actually a little tired of hostage movies after watching the equally brilliant "Inside Man" a little while ago but while that was a little on the slow side, this kept up a cracking pace until the very end. But both are exceptionally well-written, well-acted pieces of cinema and I don't think I could pick between the two. Even my Better Half enjoyed it, making me stay up late to watch it in spite of my early start the next day. I wouldn't describe "The Negotiator" as exceptional because it doesn't offer anything new in terms of action films or thrillers and the premise, as I've said, is too far-fetched for me personally. But "The Negotiator" is still a highly enjoyable film in its own right and to ignore it would be criminal. Feel free to ignore "The Italian Job" rehash, though...
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