The Negotiator Blu-ray Review
The Negotiator Film Review
Jon Hamm is in the driving seat for the atmospheric little political thriller The Negotiator.Set against an intoxicating backdrop of a land on the brink, The Negotiator - also known as Beirut in other territories - is a great little old school spy thriller which offers up the ever-watchable Mad Men star Jon Hamm (Baby Driver) in a George Clooney / Michael Clayton-esque role, desperately trying to barter a deal between intelligence services on both sides, and terrorist factions, in an attempt to recover a CIA asset who has been taken hostage.
Setting the scene for Hamm's character of Mason Skiles, the prologue is set a decade before the main events, where, after a terrible tragedy, the celebrated diplomat is shown to have fallen off the map and buried himself in a bottle. Drawn back into the political maelstrom when an old friend gets kidnapped, Skiles finds that a lot has changed in 10 years, the City now a wartorn mess of rubble and dust, where a bullet - or bomb - will find you on every corner. It's a nightmarish landscape, and Skiles has to use all of his natural negotiation skills to try and save the lives of those he cares about, even if it means putting his own on the line.
Moody and atmospheric, The Negotiator revels in its period and place, a dangerous time and location which adds a superb intensity to every scene.
Moody and atmospheric, The Negotiator revels in its period and place, a dangerous time and location which adds a superb intensity to every scene and every ticking clock deadline. Hamm drives the piece, on fabulous form (he deserves his shot at the big time in Hollywood), making the most of his ostensibly cliched character, with plenty of nice little nuances and a genuine authenticity in the part.
There's solid support from Rosamund Pike (Entebbe, Jack Reacher), Dean Norris (Get the Gringo), and Shea Whigham (Sicario 2) - who is in just about everything these days - and Mark Pellegrino (Lost), and Tony Gilroy's script works a treat (it's no real surprise about the Michael Clayton comparisons as he wrote - and directed - that and also wrote all but the last Bourne film, and even Rogue One), crafting a suitably complex series of machinations involving corrupt and dangerous players and a protagonist who has to handle both.
It may be a low key feature, but it's worth checking out, an old school-style spy thriller reminiscent of something like Spy Games or Clear and Present Danger, only on a smaller scale with a less flashy style.
The Negotiator Blu-ray PictureThe Negotiator sports a decent enough, although far from exceptional, video presentation that subsists in the gloomy, murky, dirty and treacherous war-torn environment that remains the backdrop to the proceedings, with dust and rubble, blood and dirt prevalent throughout; a sweaty, gritty-looking piece that is suitably moody and atmospheric. The Blu-ray's 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation is hardly going to win any AV awards but it looks the part.
The video presentation is hardly going to win any AV awards but it looks the part.
Detail, particularly on facial close-ups, laps up the increasingly weathered visages, the battle-ravaged environments and the period nuances, allowing for a little softness during the opening prologue which helps allow the ten-years-younger character portrayals to be a bit more convincing. The colour scheme runs unsurprisingly hot to suit the locations, but it's not unpalatably so, with authentic skin tones and more of a sun-bleached than sun-drenched look to the environments. Black levels do falter, but at least grain levels remain fairly consistent and, overall, it's a very good, albeit certainly not demo, video presentation.
The Negotiator Blu-ray SoundAn atmospheric affair.
The accompanying DTS-HD is also quite an atmospheric affair, trading in a suitably mid-East-flavoured score which is the go-to style for just about anything set in that vague area, but which works at helping set the stage. Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array and, although there are a couple of early inconsistencies in the voice levels, it's otherwise well disseminated across the course of the proceedings. Effects remain nominal, perhaps out of respect for the period setting but more likely also from the budgetary limitations with a few gunshots and bomb blasts ringing out across the entire array, as well as the urgency of racing through the bustling streets, which spills the wartorn environmental atmosphere into your very living room, but there's otherwise nothing to really set the stage alight. It's a good track, perfectly suiting the material.
The Negotiator Blu-ray ExtrasThere's nothing here to write home about but, then again, there was nothing much on the US disc either.
The Negotiator Blu-ray VerdictAn old school-style spy thriller reminiscent of Spy Games or Clear and Present Danger, only on a smaller scale with a less flashy style.
The Negotiator - which probably should have maintained it's original title of 'Beirut', which it is known as in other territories, to avoid sounding quite so generic - is a nice little spy thriller which certainly proves that Hamm can carry a movie, possibly even offering up some kind of audition tape here for a more grounded alternative to Bond.
The UK Blu-ray release provides good video and audio, and fans should consider it a solid purchase; those intrigued will find it's likely affordable enough to take the risk on, even if it'll undoubtedly turn up on Netflix sooner rather than later, adding to their small cache of hidden gems.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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