5 September 2004 | barnabyrudge
Conventional siege thriller, made better than expected by its actors.
In terms of plot and story development, The Negotiator offers little that is new. It's a very conventional film. However, it gets a much needed injection from its cast, especially the two leads Jackson and Spacey, whose verbal exchanges are exciting and dynamic.
The far-fetched yarn introduces us to Chicago hostage negotiator Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson). Roman's partner Nate (Paul Guilfoyle) is brutally murdered just as he is about to expose a bunch of cops who have been stealing from the Disability Fund. All the clues at the scene of Nate's murder point to Roman being the guilty one. Danny is arrested for the killing, but he remains determined to prove his innocence. He violently besieges the Internal Affairs division of the Chicago P.D, taking several hostages at gunpoint, and proceeds to demand that his name be cleared. Hostage negotiator Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) arrives on the scene to talk Roman into surrendering his hostages.
The ease with which Jackson's character is framed for a crime he didn't commit is hard to believe, and his subsequent decision to take hostages in order to clear himself stretches credibility to the limit. The solution to the mystery - with the revelation of the real killer coming right at the end - isn't especially believable either. However, improbabilities aside, The Negotiator is an entertaining work. As mentioned, Jackson and Spacey's confrontations are quite dynamic and help to make the film compulsively watchable. Siege thrillers by their very definition are exciting, and this one is no exception. Granted, The Negotiator is totally conventional fare, but within its limitations it remains a well-crafted, absorbing and agreeable offering.