Jeff Talley (Willis) was a hostage negotiator, until one time (as seen in the opening) he had the chance to stop a hostage situation; he made a bad choice which ended up in the situation finishing with multiple fatalities. Skip forward a year and the burned out negotiator is chief of police in a sleepy little, low crime town. When 3 kids effectively decide to initially steal a rather nice people carrier, things spiral out of control - first they infiltrate the house (comprising of a father, Walter Smith (Pollack) and his 2 children), bludgeon the father in a moment of rage and shoot dead a police officer, as well as opening up fire on the other officers in the vicinity, Talley is soon thrust back into a situation he'd hoped he wouldn't go through again. If this wasn't enough, Smith doesn't appear to be all he appears to be either and has a DVD disk that someone else wants - something so important, that Talley's wife and daughter have been taken hostage and Talley is also forced to co-operate with them, not only to diffuse the situations, but to retrieve the DVD that is so important to the survival of his own family. The essence of the main thrust of the movie, as a critic on the back has worded it, is Die Hard meets Panic Room. Well sort of. Die Hard, simply as Willis was in it as a cop and Panic Room due to the nature of criminals in a secure home. I don't think personally that is a fair representation of this movie, quite simply because it seems like forced pigeonholing. It has elements of movies such as The Negotiator (about - unbelievably - a Negotiator) and practically any movie where the hero's family is kidnapped as an incentive to make our hero comply with the villains wishes. Yes it has elements of the aforementioned, but there are a whole lot of other movies where you could draw parallels from as well.
As action movies go, I'd say this is superior to the majority of the fodder we're served up by Hollywood. Bruce Willis is back on top form here, as he is in Sin City. It's good to see a more believable hero than the muscle bound or martial artist we seem to keep having to endure. However, I felt that the story line itself was a little unbelievable. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I really couldn't see the 3 kids (and they are kids really - we're not talking criminal masterminds here) taking things as far as they did during the movie. Yes, I believe in car jacking and theft etc. but to break in and enter, hold hostage, kill police, bludgeon and then continue down this slope (including the suggestion, but not actual committing of, rape) was getting a little hard for me to swallow and buy into. Coupled with the double hostage scenario, I'm sorry but the phrase “Only in Hollywood” is literally apt here.
Having said that, the action pieces are good, the tension does increase and mount rather well, but you really have sympathy only for Willis' character ultimately. His family aren't really introduced to us sufficiently for us to identify or bond with (other than “family”) compared to say the bond seen in “Man On Fire” between Creasey and Pita. Don't take that too much as a slight, as “Man On Fire” is one of the best action movies I've seen in a while, as it explains the dynamic (instead of here or anything featuring Steven Seagal as a cop). The 3 youths are immediately dislikeable - not having any form of redeeming feature and are only missing the obligatory hoodie and baseball caps really. On the flip side, is this movie also partial social commentary - keeping in mind that the initial protagonists are so young in comparison and show no remorse for their actions? I have to think it is in part, because that element is a very debatable topic amongst society and this is almost a reflection of how some see the decline of social behaviour in the youth of today.One last comment as well, whoever thought the haircut for Smith's son was a good idea, shoot them. I'm not saying I know anything about fashion, but I really feel that he's going to have a tough time in everyday life with how he has it - unless he's thinking of becoming a member of the Beatles.
Anyway, for a decent evenings entertainment, this will deliver the goods, but as I've mentioned, keep an eye open for the possible subtext.