By Ron Wells | July 27, 1998

Does Warner Bros. really think they can buy us off with a good script and great acting? Who do they think they are? We’re America dammit! We want dinosaurs!
At least I saw one good movie this week. The studio seems to have forgone the bread and circuses route of last year (actually dirt and discos, “The Postman” and “Batman and Robin”) and gone back to filmmaking with “Lethal Weapon 4” and this film. Samuel L. Jackson is Chicago police negotiator Danny Roman. After an opening sequence where Danny takes a big risk in a hostage situation to prevent anyone from being killed, he’s once again lauded as a hero. That night, his partner reveals his investigation of embezzlement from the Police Disability Fund, of which Danny is on the board. Other cops, Danny’s friends, and even Internal Affairs are involved. When Danny meets him that night, the police come upon his just as Danny discovers Nate’s body.
Evidence of imbezzlement is planted and Danny is about to lose everything. He confronts the one guy his partner named and scuffles with a guard. He wrestles the gun away, then takes the office hostage. Hilarity ensues.
“They” framed him. “They” are, apparently, his cop friends. Danny must find out who “they” are, so he goes with what he knows. He demands Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) as his negotiator because he doesn’t know him so he can’t be involved. Negotiators are practiced in both telling and revealing lies, so both Roman and Sabian must alternately lie and tell the truth to get what they want. Danny must find out who framed him. Chris wants to keep anyone from being killed. The cops, who all knew Roman, want to rush in, kill him, and end the whole situation.
What we got here is taut little thriller. Jackson gives an amazing, nuanced performance as he teeters on the edge of paranoia. Spacey gives a great, toned-down show as I guy who’s in over his head trying to find out what the hell is going on. Both men have a habit of lapsing into actor schtick, but director F. Gary Gray (“Set it Off”) keeps them believable. Both men must fall back on their negotiating skills. Not everything they try works too well. Both need to make themselves understood.
I’m glad Warner Bros. has gone back to making movies instead of theme park rides. Now if they could only learn how to make move trailers without excessive spoilers like the one for this film. (Avoid the trailer at all cost). This film is also dedicated to actor J.T. Walsh who plays a cop and died last February. At least he got a better send-off than poor Lloyd Bridges in “Mafia!”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon