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Overall Rating
3.81

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look56.67%
Average: 27.78%
Pretty Bad: 2.22%
Total Crap: 0%

9 reviews, 36 user ratings


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Negotiator, The
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by Slyder

"Two-thirds of brilliance make up for the one half-baked one-third"
4 stars

First, whatís great about The Negotiator, itís an almost solid, well-made thrill-ride with a cracker-jack whodunit of a twist, featuring two of the best actors in the business trading wits and one-liners between each other. And hereís whatís bad about the Negotiator, it could have been even better had the filmmakers not rushed to get this movie made and had allowed for a lot more screenplay development. Iím not necessarily taking anything away from the flick itself, because it is a good and entertaining ride once it gets going, but based on what we got here, you canít help but wonder what might have been.

Samuel L. Jackson is Danny Roman, one of the top negotiators in the Chicago Police Department. After his partner is killed while apparently investigating a possible case of corruption by the Police Department itself. Before long, Danny is set up in the murder and faces prison time, but before Internal Affairs and the main agent in charge Terence Niebaum (JT Walsh) can take action, Danny shows up to confront Niebaum and ends up taking him and 3 other people hostage, including Commander Grant Frost (Ron Rifkin), whoís one of Dannyís longtime friends. Roman knows he got set up, and soon begins to plan his strategy in order to prove his innocence and at the same time, demands the Police to call up Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), another Chicago PD negotiator with an impeccable background, to mediate with him as the Police, and the men behind the scam plot to get into the building to execute their own respective objectives.

As stated, the main reason why this film works is the cast. Everyone is game here, but of course, the majority of the praise will go to both Jackson and Spacey. Both have immediate screen presences respectively, and itís hard not to care for them. Both men however are very ambiguous, and ambitious too. They know exactly what they want and the tension simply goes up and up whenever both are facing each other, and outwitting each other into a mistake so that either one can get an advantage for their own causes. That is usually what a negotiator does when dealing with a hostage situation, but put 2 of them on opposite sides, and sparks surely fly. At the same time however, Director F.Gary Gray never forgets that we ultimately must care for these two characters, with Roman fighting the odds and his frustration to clear his name, and Sabian having to connect the dots and save the hostages, while at the same time, keep the entire army of cops and FBI agents from crashing into the building.

The supporting players are just as great although we get a bit of a mishmash here, with Ron Rifkin a solid character with an insight revealed later on, David Morse chews scenery as Romanís at-odds fellow SWAT man Commander Beck, John Spencer and Regina Taylor as Romanís Commander and wife respectively are given nothing to work with, but nevertheless acquit themselves as much as they can. The big surprise was Paul Giamatti, as one of the hostages named Rudy Timmons, coming off as a nerdy and nervous geek that has gone to the bad side, with crushing luck all the time. He was fun to watch and is given some really funny as hell one-liners to which he doesnít waste.

I want to save a paragraph for the late great JT Walsh as the evil-appearing Niebaum. Walsh has always been one of my favorite character actors ever since I saw him in the Kurt Russell thriller Breakdown; his somber look and low voice were his trademarks, giving you the impression that heís got something to hide, or that heís mighty intelligent and knows something you donít, and wonít let you know. Heís memorable here as the focal point of Romanís impromptu investigation and isnít afraid of going one on one with Jackson. I was truly saddened when he died, mainly because he was finally getting the recognition he deserved and more importantly, he was slowly but surely breaking free from his typecasting of evil roles, and itís just too bad that objective wasnít realized.

Hereís to you JT; we movie buffs that know your work certainly wonít forget you, and I hope youíre having fun in that stage up there in Heaven with the rest of themÖ

Moving on before I shed a tear, the big fatal flaw of this film however lies on the screenplay. By watching this film, itís clear that both writers James DeMonaco and Kevin Foxx had a great idea going, as evidenced in the great pains they took researching the complete ins and outs of hostage negotiating, including a memorable highlight in which Jackson taunts one of his fellow ďgreenĒ teammates and ultimately gives him a humiliating lesson regarding the matter. The problem is, these two donít know how to set the scenario up. The buildup to the whole shenanigans is plain simply atrocious. Though it starts off with a bang, things suddenly are moved at a rushed pace, with plot points inserted and checked off rather than seamlessly setting them up. Characters are not given time to develop, and our main protagonist isnít given much insight regarding his relationship with his wife, and even less so with his fellow teammates in the force. The whole business with the pension fund comes out of nowhere and Romanís partner, whoís the key starting point in the whole mess is handled superficially. This half-baked set-up is the filmís Achilles heel and ultimately hampers the film in terms of suspense, intrigue and quality. The most pathetic scene is when Roman has documents planted in his house implicating him on his partners murder; the scene comes off so stupidly obvious that it just made me want to scoff in annoyance. Hell, you could even tell that Jackson wanted to get over that scene as quickly as possible in order to stave off further embarrassment. This rather ill advised 1st act made me question if this movie was going to be any good, or if it was going to be yet another lame-ass Die-Hard meets The Fugitive carbon copy. Thankfully, once Roman enters that Internal Affairs floor, thatís when the movie sets off and from then on, Director Gray manages to take the filmís central core of the story and run with it, and he deserves credit for that, as his action set pieces are impressive and thrilling. I just wish he had however worked more closely with his writers to iron out that first act in order to set the characters up more appropriately than what they had here.

Thankfully though, the film makes up for its deficiencies on the 2nd and 3rd acts, and those two alone are worthy enough reasons to watch this film, since within them hides a very intelligent and thrilling yarn until the very end. Had this filmís screenplay been given a further treatment, and set up the first act better, it wouldíve been a masterwork. Nevertheless, as it stands, it is still a very good and well-executed action film, so donít let that clunky opener stop you from watching two great actors in their prime going against each other and then against the forces that are conspiring against them. Good stuff! 3.5-5.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12&reviewer=235
originally posted: 05/24/09 17:38:55
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User Comments

9/20/14 PAUL SHORTT SLICK, FAST-PACED THRILLER, WITH A GOOD CAST 3 stars
5/11/06 Agent Sands Overrated, I think. Good, though. 4 stars
10/01/05 Indrid Cold I suppose the acting elevates it somewhat above average, but nothing to write home about. 4 stars
12/13/03 R.W. Welch A tad overdone and overlong but nicely acted. 3 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby Hey, look -- it's a lame-brained rip-off of "The Fugitive"!! 2 stars
2/06/03 123 despite predictable outcome, this movie rocks, my personal fave 5 stars
9/18/02 palaboy101 This is the movie the Pasay City police should've seen! 5 stars
9/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Very clever,but it had a really dumb ending. 4 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean Better than I thought it would be! Wonderfully directed by "Friday"'s director. 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Surprisingly good film with a great cast revolving around an interesting story. So...yeah. 4 stars
2/13/01 Richard Wright ZZZ. Uninspired actioner,notable only for wasting its excellent cast.Next time, try harder. 3 stars
8/29/00 Chris Drake Formulaic plot, difficult to endure even with Jackson & Spacey 2 stars
7/06/00 Bruce Superb acting and directing, this is an action thriller that delivers 5 stars
2/16/00 Neil Austin Lovley Jubbly 4 stars
1/17/00 Dirk Diggler suspenseful 5 stars
1/12/00 paul smart and savvy 5 stars
1/11/00 dr.d tense and taut 5 stars
12/29/99 Pitt Very good suspense. Good dialogue. Liked it alot! 4 stars
7/30/99 Matthew Bartley If it wasnt for Kev and Sam Id probably have switched off 4 stars
7/09/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
6/25/99 David Keech Great cast makes up for fairly horrid script. Good comic relief from that male hostage. 4 stars
1/02/99 tarkin666 Jackson. Spacey. Need I say more? 5 stars
12/01/98 Kirgo Excellent action flik! 5 stars
11/13/98 chi-fan It kept me interested throughout 5 stars
11/02/98 skylar i love the dialogues between kevin and sam. :) 5 stars
10/27/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! Sam Jackson/Kev Spacey hit it off !,plots a bit exaggerated though,"1 HOT MOVIE!" 4 stars
10/24/98 Ash This film kicks ass, its not the usual action flick,RECOMMENDED,the bad guys bite though 4 stars
9/15/98 Negative Creep Go see it just to watch Sam Jackson curse. Now Motherfucker° 3 stars
9/14/98 Chip Taylor The actors mostly make this film what it is. 4 stars
9/08/98 Young Einstein This movie was so much better than I expected. SO much better. 5 stars
8/26/98 Chuck-D Much like strange days, this film needs to have a different ending 3 stars
8/25/98 Puppy78 (You know who i am) spacey made a deal with the devil never to be in a bad film 4 stars
8/23/98 {{{OZ}}} I can't fault this film after a summer of shite. Spacey rocks. I loved it. 5 stars
8/20/98 Johny I would have given it a better rating if the ending was more effective 3 stars
8/16/98 Miss Stress any movie where 90% of the audience comes out yawning can't be good 3 stars
8/12/98 Pumpkin Great film. Superb acting. Better than I thought 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jul-1998 (R)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Oct-1998 (MA)


Directed by
  F. Gary Gray

Written by
  James DeMonaco
  Kevin Foxx

Cast
  Samuel L.Jackson
  Kevin Spacey
  David Morse
  Ron Rifkin
  John Spencer
  J.T. Walsh



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