Ossus Library Index Action Movie Index

THE NEGOTIATOR

Directed by F. Gary Gray (1998, Warner Bros.)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, and David Morse

A city negotiator takes hostages of his own after being framed for murder by some corrupt cops in his office.

 

 

4 stars

February 12th to 13th, 2001 on TV

 
    Over two intense, stressful, and uncertain hours played out as the character of Danny Roman went from all-around nice guy to an unsympathetic character. Wow. I could take more of this.

I really enjoyed the interplay between the two negotiators. As Danny went from a guy who was obviously framed to a man who was over the edge, I really wasn't sure what to believe. 

The movie started out with the requisite scene where we get to see how good Danny really is. He goes into a crazy situation and talks down a man holding his daughter hostage. Through the window, he gives the sharp-shooters a one-two-three countdown and they shoot the man. I can't figure out why he counted to three, but it was a good scene, anyway. Pretty standard for this kind of movie, like in Kiss the Girls, and others. 

When his partner tells him somebody has embezzled money from the police disability fund, the man is killed, and Danny is framed for the murder. So he confronts one of the higher up people, and the situation ends up beyond his control. Before he knows it, he has a gun to the man's head and is holding hostages. His old team is called in to talk him out of the situation. It was really neat how this scene played itself out. One minute, he's a frustrated cop. The next, he's grabbed a gun and orders all the other employees out of the room. 

Since he knows that somebody on the inside is still trying to frame him, he calls for an impartial Negotiator, one who does not come from his district. Jackson and Spacey played amazingly off each other. Each one thinks they can do better than the other, but they are just as good as the other one. Danny knows all of the tricks that his people will try and pull on him, so he plans accordingly. At one point, against the knowledge of the other Negotiator, Chris Sabian, his team decides to try and take him out by force, but it backfires. 

There is a moment immediately afterwards where Danny decides to show them how serious he is, so he kills one of the hostages, a cop who was in on the failed strike. It turns out later, as I had guessed, that he didn't kill the man, but for the other cops, it hardens their hearts. For the audience, he suddenly becomes much less sympathetic. 

There is a lull in the action where Danny accesses the computers of the chief, looking for information that would exonerate him. He knows the chief is in on the embezzlement, but needs to know who else is involved. When the man finally, under threat of death, tells him some names, some of the guilty cops take matters into their own hands, and, pretending to strike at Danny, assassinate their informant. 

Things get so out of hand, but we know there is treachery involved, so it feels so natural. We get just as frustrated as Chris Sabian does, but we also don't want them to move too fast, because we know Danny is innocent. 

Finally, Chris is taken off the case by the FBI, because it has been handled so ineptly. But it is not his fault. So Chris goes to see Danny face to face, and tries to convince him to give up. Chris agrees to give Danny another chance, seeing the assassinated chief and the cop who is not dead, and drives Danny to the chief's house, where there may be other computer files. 

The FBI launches a full barrage at Danny, who has planned for this eventuality. The scene that leads up to Danny's escape is amazing... the gas bombs flying everywhere, the smoke and fire, the FBI agents flying through windows. Great stuff. 

At the chief's house, there doesn't appear to be anything to find, and as the cops finally show up time runs out. But seeing something only a Negotiator would see, Chris notices that Danny's boss is acting a little strange. He plays a bluff, shooting Danny himself and trying to blackmail him with evidence he doesn't have. Leaving his two-way radio on, Chris hands over the "evidence", and asks for half of the embezzled money in return, and Danny's boss agrees. 

So the ending was a little weak, considering there was really no prior evidence that Danny's immediate boss was the perpetrator. But the rest of the movie was so strong that it riveted us to the screen. The intensity of the beginning of the movie, all the way to the end was amazing, and we really didn't know how it would play out. The two leads played everything very smart, and turned out to be on the same side. This was exciting stuff.
 
   

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