Hot Seat, directed by James Cullen Bressack, opens with an explosion in a park. Sadly, there was one fatality. Orlando (Kevin Dillon) heard the sound of the blast while out for his run. Upon returning home, he tells his wife, Kim (Lydia Hull), that he’s been called into the office today. She’s understandably upset as it is their daughter’s birthday. Zoey (Anna Harr) is dismayed but seems to understand.
At the office, Orlando and his friend/co-worker Enzo (Michael Welch) discuss how frustrating it is to be at work this close to Christmas. However, their day is slightly brightened by the presents their boss left. Unfortunately for Orlando, once he sits down in his chair, it activates a pressure-sensitive bomb, and the person controlling it demands that he hacked into several banks and accounts. Orlando does not want to but gives in while he plans a way out.
Meanwhile, bomb squad partners Wallace (Mel Gibson) and Jackson (Eddie Steeples) investigate the earlier bombing, which leads them to the building Orlando works in. Without any other leads, Police Chief Pam (Shannen Doherty) and the others believe all this to be the work of Orlando. However, a wrench is thrown into the mysterious mastermind’s plans when administrative assistant Ava (Kate Katzman) enters the office to talk to Enzo. Can they escape, or will they be blown to smithereens?
Collin Watts and Leon Langford’s screenplay for Hot Seat does an admirable job of balancing all the story threads. There’s Orlando and Kim’s relationship woes, the main plot involving the mad bomber, the cops’ investigation, the minor tale of Enzo and Ava’s dating life, as well as Orlando’s backstory, all set against Zoey’s birthday celebration. It is a lot, especially for an independent production. But the writers give each narrative its due without the picture feeling jumbled or overblown.
“Unfortunately for Orlando, once he sits down in his chair, it activates a pressure-sensitive bomb…”
As far as the directing is concerned, Bressack is at the top of his game. He brings a kinetic style that really amps up the tension and sense of danger. When Orlando first walks into the office, director of photography Bryan Koss whips the camera 180 degrees to show off its geography. Couple that move with the impressive lighting, and viewers just know something is amiss right away.
As the star of Hot Seat, Dillon brings a likable quality to the pretty selfish Orlando. While his role is brief, it is always a pleasure to see Welch pop up in various parts. Hull is good as the somewhat underwritten put-upon housewife. A few more scenes between her and Dillon probably would’ve helped this particular thread, as it is the weakest of the bunch. Harr makes Zoey more than just the token daughter, as her love for her father is felt in each scene she and Dillon share.
Steeples is fun as the bomb squad sidekick, while Doherty brings a levelheaded calm to the police chief. But really, acting-wise, it is Gibson who enlivens the proceedings. His constant viewing of everything as a chess game feels natural to the character, and the actor is clearly having fun with the fast-talking, smartest guy in the room part. Gibson is as charming as ever and proves what made him a superstar.
Hot Seat is Bressack’s best live-action feature to date (CarGo involves cannibal cars and, therefore, must be his best for that reason alone). It is intriguing, looks great, and has a tightly wound, exciting plot while still giving each character a moment to shine. The cast is also great, with Dillon and Gibson bringing a lot of energy to their roles. If you love films like Speed or Enemy Of The State, you’ll enjoy this high-octane ride immensely.
"…Bressack's best live-action feature to date."