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Overall Rating
3.81

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look56.67%
Just Average: 27.78%
Pretty Crappy: 2.22%
Sucks: 0%

9 reviews, 36 user ratings



Negotiator, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Can't argue with that cast; script needed work."
3 stars

There's something a bit cheesy about a studio packaging a routine thriller with great actors; you find yourself compelled to catch a B-movie you wouldn't bother with if it starred, say, Steven Seagal and Howie Long.

The Negotiator, which stars Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey -- two actors who couldn't be boring if they were asleep for an entire film -- goes a step further: it's a B-movie you wouldn't bother with if it starred, say, anyone else. Essentially, the movie is Jackson and Spacey. Take them away and you have an overlong, underplausible hostage drama that might have been done better, and shorter, on any number of TV shows.

Jackson is Danny Roman, a Chicago hostage negotiator framed for the murder of a fellow cop. Enraged and desperate, he storms into the Internal Affairs offices and takes a few hostages of his own -- including the IA chief (J.T. Walsh) who might have been in on the frame-up. The first demand Danny makes, and gets, is Chris Sabian (Spacey), a cool-cucumber negotiator who takes quick and quiet control of the situation -- despite the itchy trigger fingers of the feds and SWAT team. Danny's ultimate demand, though, is that the police catch the real murderer.

As efficiently as a big Hollywood movie like this can be done -- and director F. Gary Gray does a credible job -- a vague feeling of inevitability and boredom may settle into your bones before you even sit down. If this were, say, an intense little art-house film with nobody you've ever heard of, the stakes would seem higher and the action more tense precisely because the actors aren't well-known and can therefore die at any time. For the most part, though, the conclusion of a big-budget movie like The Negotiator is depressingly foregone. Aside from the identity of the killer (and even that's no big whoop), the script by James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox has no surprises and no real depths for these great actors to explore.

To praise Jackson and Spacey would be redundant, since they're good here in the same ways they've been great elsewhere (which is a problem in itself). Jackson, a master of blistering rhetoric, has his best scene early on when he's quizzing an inept negotiator -- though it steals not only from a similar hostage dialogue between a psycho kid and a sweaty principal in Stephen King's novel Rage, but also from Jackson's own "Say 'What?' one more goddamn time, I dare ya" bit in Pulp Fiction. Yet after a while his performance becomes a tad monotonous -- for which I blame the script, which seldom gives him anything to play except "Must find the killer."

Spacey, as always, manages to suggest flashes of private amusement beneath his toneless line readings. But he's best when that tonelessness also hides dark secrets, and here he's playing too much of a standard-issue good guy, the negotiator who'll go out of his way to avoid bloodshed. Kevin Spacey should never be asked to play trustworthy characters. He delivers a perfectly plausible and professional performance, but the only time I really rose to his work was when Sabian first takes command and declares that the only valid orders will now come from him. There's a quiet authority in his voice that the movie lacks.

One other reason I allowed myself to look forward to The Negotiator was that it was directed by F. Gary Gray, whose 1996 Set It Off was a sleeper hit for a reason: far from being a Waiting to Exhale Meets Thelma & Louise, as it was often advertised, it was a sharp and crackling examination of crime and the poverty-level lives that lead to it. So I left this movie a bit baffled; there doesn't seem to have been any motivation for Gray to direct it except to prove he can do a big formula thriller. He can, but not that well; the movie wears out its welcome at about the 90-minute mark and still has almost another hour to go.

After some thought, I finally decided that Jackson and Spacey signed onto the project so they'd get to work with each other, and that Gray signed on so he'd get to work with them (who wouldn't want to?). That's understandable. What isn't understandable is how this film, with the talent involved all around, turned out so blah. Or maybe it's not such a mystery: A boring script filmed by a fine director and great actors is still a boring script.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/10/07 20:21:33
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User Comments

9/19/14 PAUL SHORTT SLICK, FAST-PACED THRILLER, WITH A GOOD CAST 3 stars
5/10/06 Agent Sands Overrated, I think. Good, though. 4 stars
9/30/05 Indrid Cold I suppose the acting elevates it somewhat above average, but nothing to write home about. 4 stars
12/12/03 R.W. Welch A tad overdone and overlong but nicely acted. 3 stars
3/31/03 Jack Sommersby Hey, look -- it's a lame-brained rip-off of "The Fugitive"!! 2 stars
2/06/03 123 despite predictable outcome, this movie rocks, my personal fave 5 stars
9/17/02 palaboy101 This is the movie the Pasay City police should've seen! 5 stars
9/27/01 Henry Ginsberg Very clever,but it had a really dumb ending. 4 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean Better than I thought it would be! Wonderfully directed by "Friday"'s director. 4 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Surprisingly good film with a great cast revolving around an interesting story. So...yeah. 4 stars
2/12/01 Richard Wright ZZZ. Uninspired actioner,notable only for wasting its excellent cast.Next time, try harder. 3 stars
8/28/00 Chris Drake Formulaic plot, difficult to endure even with Jackson & Spacey 2 stars
7/06/00 Bruce Superb acting and directing, this is an action thriller that delivers 5 stars
2/15/00 Neil Austin Lovley Jubbly 4 stars
1/17/00 Dirk Diggler suspenseful 5 stars
1/12/00 paul smart and savvy 5 stars
1/10/00 dr.d tense and taut 5 stars
12/28/99 Pitt Very good suspense. Good dialogue. Liked it alot! 4 stars
7/30/99 Matthew Bartley If it wasnt for Kev and Sam Id probably have switched off 4 stars
7/09/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
6/24/99 David Keech Great cast makes up for fairly horrid script. Good comic relief from that male hostage. 4 stars
1/02/99 tarkin666 Jackson. Spacey. Need I say more? 5 stars
11/30/98 Kirgo Excellent action flik! 5 stars
11/12/98 chi-fan It kept me interested throughout 5 stars
11/01/98 skylar i love the dialogues between kevin and sam. :) 5 stars
10/26/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! Sam Jackson/Kev Spacey hit it off !,plots a bit exaggerated though,"1 HOT MOVIE!" 4 stars
10/24/98 Ash This film kicks ass, its not the usual action flick,RECOMMENDED,the bad guys bite though 4 stars
9/14/98 Negative Creep Go see it just to watch Sam Jackson curse. Now Motherfucker¡ 3 stars
9/13/98 Chip Taylor The actors mostly make this film what it is. 4 stars
9/08/98 Young Einstein This movie was so much better than I expected. SO much better. 5 stars
8/25/98 Chuck-D Much like strange days, this film needs to have a different ending 3 stars
8/24/98 Puppy78 (You know who i am) spacey made a deal with the devil never to be in a bad film 4 stars
8/22/98 {{{OZ}}} I can't fault this film after a summer of shite. Spacey rocks. I loved it. 5 stars
8/19/98 Johny I would have given it a better rating if the ending was more effective 3 stars
8/16/98 Miss Stress any movie where 90% of the audience comes out yawning can't be good 3 stars
8/12/98 Pumpkin Great film. Superb acting. Better than I thought 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jul-1998 (R)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Oct-1998 (MA)


Directed by
  F. Gary Gray

Written by
  James DeMonaco
  Kevin Foxx

Cast
  Samuel L.Jackson
  Kevin Spacey
  David Morse
  Ron Rifkin
  John Spencer
  J.T. Walsh



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