Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Negotiator

Year: 1998
Running time: 140 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: James DeMonaco, Kevin Fox
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, J.T. Walsh, Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor

A tension-filled stand-off.
The Negotiator is one of those alright films that is only ever worth watching once or twice, if that. It’s not likely to ever be anyone’s favourite. It sounds great on paper – Sam Jackson is the best police negotiator in the force Danny Roman, able to diffuse some of the tensest hostage situations. He is on a roll of high profile success.  When he uncovers some internal corruption and his friend gets murdered he somehow finds himself framed and heading for prison. Reduced to desperate measures, he takes hostages himself and barricades himself halfway up the police internal affairs office block. Trying to prove his innocence, he insists on a negotiator completely impartial and with a reputation at least as good as his own: enter Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey).

What you would hope for is a plot involving double-crosses, tension-filled scenes and plenty of action. Well, in a sense, that’s what you do get. It’s just that, well, it’s not as good as it should be. It doesn’t quite set the screen alight – Jackson and Spacey both excel and work well together, but they struggle with some of the dialogue that isn’t as clever as it thinks it is and twists that aren’t as surprising as they’re supposed to be. There are so many clichés presented as though they are earth-shattering it is impossible to take it as seriously as it wants you to.  The dialogue, while mostly passable, occasionally it degenerates into sweary ridiculousness (for example, one heated exchange simply goes "Fuck you!"  "Fuck you!"), which smacks of a screenplay running out of ideas.

Er, another tension-filled stand-off.
It looks good, making good use of plenty of shadows and finds ways to make the office in which most of it is set interesting throughout the overlong running time. A fine supporting cast (including the late, great J.T. Walsh in one of his final roles) do well in clichéd and underwritten parts, and help to lift the material a little.

It’s not too bad, but it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the central story idea - it isn't the L.A. Confidential it thinks it is.

Score: 6/10

It would seem others might think me a little harsh on The Negotiator, as evidenced by these reviews by Merrill and Gareth.