Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Hostage

Street Date:
August 23rd, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 12th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2005
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
113 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I'll admit it. 'Hostage' is a pretty clichéd cop thriller, one which uses a formula similar to so many movies before it. The hostage component is nothing new for movies. It's a way to create an instant conflict that can carry on throughout the film. You know, I'm completely fine with its formulaic tendencies. Truthfully, I simply enjoy 'Hostage' for what it brings to the table.

Let's forget for a minute that Bruce Willis is in this movie. Yes, he's the featured face on the cover. He's the ultra-mega superstar whose involvement probably ensured that this movie was even made. But, let's forget that for just a moment. Willis, although I like him in just about everything he does, isn't what makes this movie enjoyable. He does his badass Willis thing and does it well, but the actor that really makes 'Hostage' such an unexpected treat is Ben Foster. As far as I'm concerned this is Foster's movie.

Foster plays Mars. A reclusive teenager who lives for destruction. There's something creepy about him right from the outset. He and his two friends Dennis (Jonathan Tucker) and Kevin (Marshall Allman) decide that they're going to steal a car. They target Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack) and his family because of their snazzy looking Escalade. Only they weren't counting on a silent alarm being tripped or the cops showing up. After Mars shoots the responding police officer a tense stand-off is triggered.

That's when Chief of Police Jeff Talley (Willis) assumes command. Talley was a seasoned hostage negotiator in Los Angeles, but after one of his negotiations went south, he moved out to the country and took command of a small town's police department. There's another side story where Walter Smith may not be the stand-up guy he appears to be, and may indeed be dealing with nefarious characters on the side. While that plays an important part in the movie, it's an easily forgettable plot device. Foster's performance is what really drives this movie.

Foster disappears into a role that, if given to just about anybody else, would end up being cheesy as hell. He's able to utter lines like "You're my girl, and my girl comes with me," with terrifying resonance. At times you have to wonder how off his rocker Foster must have been to play a guy like Mars. A guy who delights in death and devastation. A guy who doesn't care about anything other than annihilation. Alfred said it best in 'The Dark Knight' when he said, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." That's Mars. He's that sadistic. He's that sick.

The rest of the movie is a by-the-book thriller, and ends up getting lost in too many subplots. Foster upstages everyone, making you wish he actually played a bigger part in the movie's endgame.

I enjoy the darker feel that 'Hostage' portrays. I'm satisfied with its formulaic story, because it works its formula well. I admit that when I first heard about the movie during its theatrical run, I was drawn in by Willis' name. I paid for a ticket just to see another Bruce Willis movie. I had no idea that it would be Foster's performance that would be worth the price of admission.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Hostage' is a Lionsgate release and has been pressed onto a 25GB Single-Layer disc. It's been packages into a standard Blu-ray keepcase and is marked as a region A release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Hostage' has a dark, gritty feel to it that's accurately represented here. The 1080p picture produced by Lionsgate offers a bleak, but clear viewing experience.

Blacks are deep and shadows are well delineated. This is important since the entire movie, more or less, takes place at night. Stark shadows are cast on everyone and everything. The shadows here add depth and dimension to the picture. They accentuate details rather than obliterating them. There's a thick layer of cinematic grain covering the picture, which gives it that all-important filmic feel.

Colors are deep and vibrant. I've always liked the comic book style opening credits. From that point you're instantly able to understand the kind of color palette you're going to be in store for. Reds take on a darker hue than normal, adding to the gritty, grimy feel that cinematographer Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci was going for. It's surprising that it's taken this long for the States to get a domestic release of 'Hostage', but at least it looks like they took their time making sure it looked good.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio offers an interactive, engrossing audio experience. I was half expecting Lionsgate to mint a new 7.1 mix for this release because they've done so many of their other releases with it. Even though it doesn't have 7.1 surround sound, the 5.1 performs quite nicely.

This is an action-packed film full of LFE-laden explosions and gun battles. There are plenty of sound effects that are captured brilliantly. Helicopters hovering over the scene give the audio presentation a chance to show off its panning capabilities. The whirring sound of the blades swings in and out of the frame, passing from one end of the sound stage to the other seamlessly.

Dialogue is reproduced clearly, even though Foster whispers or grumbles most of his lines. The eerie score written by composer Alexandre Desplat stretches throughout the soundfield and adds a creepy ambiance to the whole experience. Rears are busy with activity, whether it be the crumbling timber of a burning home or the frantic environment surrounding a hostage crisis. The 'Hostage' audio mix has just about everything, from high-octane action to whispered scenes as poor Tommy Smith crawls around in his crawl space talking to Jeff Talley on the phone. You'll be happy with the way this one turned out.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary — Director Florent Siri is the lone commentator on this track. This is the same track that was included on the 2005 DVD release. This is a very by-the-numbers commentary. Siri talks about the genesis of the project, how Willis became attached and how everything started. Siri talks discusses technical filming information along with anecdotal asides that have to do with shooting the movie. If you're a fan of the movie you may want to give this a listen.
  • Taking 'Hostage' Behind the Scenes (SD, 12 min.) — Interviews with the cast and crew spliced with footage from the movie and footage from behind the scenes. It's basically an EPK making of featurette. It's bland and reeks of simple promotion.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 5 min.) — There's a few deleted scenes here that have optional commentary from Siri. Some extended interaction between Dennis and Kevin, and a bizarre scene that shows that Jeff Talley drinks on the job. It's easy to see most of these being cut for pacing issues, along with characterization that didn't need to be in the movie at all.
  • Extended Scenes (SD, 2 min.) — There's an extended and awkward scene with Willis and his real-life daughter Rumer and an extended scene of (spoiler!) Mars burning to death. These also have commentary from Siri.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

I know that Foster's performance here is so overwrought and overdone, but it's still believable and creepy. He's just as good here as he was in '3:10 to Yuma'. He's the reason to watch 'Hostage', he really is. The audio and video are really nice too. The special features are carried over from the DVD. Nothing new on that front. Still, I don’t' have a problem recommending 'Hostage' to be added to someone's collection. The price is sure attractive!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray + Digital Copy

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Taking Hostage Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes and Extended Scenes with Commentary
  • Audio Commentary by Director Florent Emilio Siri

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

Related reviews