Reviewed by Michael Miller
Rating: 5 Beans
etween them, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey have made some of the smartest script choices of the decade: Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Eve’s Bayou, L.A. Confidential.
The Negotiator, directed by Gary F. Gray, is the kind of film these men could be forgiven for had it come early in their careers. Actors gotta eat. But The Negotiator is going to cost both men some of the trust and respect audiences have in them. They turn in workmanlike performances, and Jackson is even given some pseudo-Pulp Fiction lines, but workmanlike, from these two actors, is a letdown.
Aimless, uncertain and ultimately empty, the screenplay devotes 90-percent of its energy to getting the audience to chose sides, then subverts that energy in the last 10 minutes. This is not a case of a powerful surprise turning things upside-down, but of a resolution that makes the preceding 2 hours illogical and a cheat.
The premise, that Jackson’s hostage negotiator police officer character is holding hostages because he fears the cops in his squad are out to kill him, drives the film until the last scene, when we learn that the people who have been most eager to hurt him were never in on the conspiracy. Confused? It doesn’t matter. By the time you’re far enough out of your seat to throw away your popcorn bag, the film will have slipped from your mind.
Filled with odd overhead sweeping shots by Titanic Oscar winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter (sweeping overhead shots of a giant ship at sea are one thing; sweeping overhead shots of a motionless building are less effective) and disorienting action sequences that do not resolve who has been shot and where they end up, this over-long production is a disappointment and a set-back for Spacey and Jackson.
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