26 April 2009 | MisterWhiplash
not Sam Jackson/Kevin Spacey Negotiator, that's for sure
Negotiator, a TV-movie directed by the inimitable Takashi Miike, is two-halves of a movie bread. The one halve is a perfectly terrific kidnapping picture, taking its twists but giving the audience its share of excellent acting and a low-key atmosphere to counter the grueling tension. The other half is melodrama cooked up to 11 and given to us to explain what the kidnapping plot at the hospital was all about - an inside job that goes a lot deeper and more personal than anyone could see. While all of the performances are top-notch, especially the actor Hiroshi Mikami who plays Inspector Ishida (in one really fantastic dramatic scene, a real barn-burner in the 2nd act, one sees the depths he's gone to for revenge for his lost loved one), the script itself thinks its a lot sharper than it really is. It doubles back and gives us information, tricking us and folding us again and again into the mystery of what turns into basically a big ol' pot-boiler.
Which would be fine, except that Miike films it as if he's still in the same mindset he did Gozu the same year, with super-long takes in some scenes (5 minutes with an unbroken shot) that are unnecessary and draw attention from what drama happens in the scenes. I applaud Miike for going a route that veers towards the more realistic and tragic in the sense of the characters, and it's a change of pace from his Gonzo works from that period. But its own low-key quality becomes the undoing, in some part, of the suspense that builds for an hour and then pops like a big fat bubble when we find out the circumstances. Negotiator is a movie I really wanted to like more than I did; it tries patience even as it has a lot of rewarding elements and things going for it. It is, simply, worth its TV movie status.