Negotiator is one of the best thrillers of the 90s. Essentially
Die Hard all over again, its
elevated by two compelling performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin
The hook this time is that instead of Alan Rickman with a German accent
as the antagonist, itís Jacksonís hostage negotiator, Danny Roman.
Framed for his partnerís death, who was killed for getting too close to
exposing an embezzlement fraud, Roman holes up on the twentieth floor of
77 West Wacker Drive in Chicago with four hostages including police
commander Grant Frost (Ron Rifkin) and internal affairs officer Niebaum
(the late J.T. Walsh). And he wonít leave until the real culprits are
Cue the arrival of fellow negotiator Chris Sabian (Spacey). Sabian is an
independent observer who is proud of his zero casualty record.
Interested only in peacefully diffusing the situation, he has a hard
time preventing the police hordes from storming the building by force.
An exciting cat and mouse game ensues as the two intelligent leads
battle the bureaucracy and corruption around them in their search for
the real culprits. It's reminicsent of other mano-o-mano confrontations
such as Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman in
Crimson Tide. Not as well
written as that film, the screenplay is formulaic but elevated by small,
clever details. A reoccurring argument about the ending of
Shane, for instance, is
infinitely more interesting than the usual action schtick of bellowing
expletives at each other.
Elevated almost entirely
by performances, the two compelling leads are accompanied by a rich cast
of stalwarts playing exactly to type, including Rifkin, Walsh, David
Morse and John Spencer. Paul Giamatti, before cementing a reputation as
a character actor in Alexander Payneís Sideways, is also in the cast,
playing a shifty con man and one of Romanís hostages.
Set almost entirely within one office building in Chicago, thereís a
terrific sense of tension and claustrophobia, punctuated by bursts of
action as the force attempts to take Roman down before he learns too
much. Director F. Gary Gray, who
also directed the equally enjoyable remake of
The Italian Job knows how to
maintain tension and keep the energy high. If it falters, itís in the
finale, which, like the ending to Die
Hard with a Vengeance, feels tacked on and superficial.
Itís appearance on Blu-ray is a mixed blessing. An uncomplicated
release, the film is presented well in HD, free of artefacts and visual
blemishes. It's better than the DVD release, but still lacks the clarity
of the top tier blu-ray discs. There is also little in the way of
special features. The only inclusions are a short documentary entitled
ďThe 11th Hour: Stores from real NegotiatorsĒ, a short 16 minute
featurette about the making of the film and the theatrical trailer. The
extras are only in 480i and have two channel sound.
While far from a great film, thereís much to enjoy here. Sometimes all
you want is a solid action thriller, and on that score
The Negotiator is an unqualified