Film discussion

Throwback 20: The Negotiator

I feel like I have to address the elephant in the room in regards to The Negotiator before I get too far into this Throwback. I really enjoy this film, I have ever since I first saw it, but this is the first time that I have re-watched it since the allegations about Kevin Spacey’s past have come to light. Yes, this has changed how I look at this film, as I’m sure it would any project involving Spacey. However, the story, the performances, and the supporting cast in The Negotiator are so good that I found that I was able to put this aside and still enjoy the film for what it is.

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, The Negotiator tells the story of Danny Roman (Jackson), a brilliant hostage negotiator for the Chicago Police Department who finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy to embezzle large amounts of money from the department’s disability fund. His partner, Nick Roenick (Paul Guilfoyle), tells him that he has evidence from an unnamed source, but when he’s killed Danny not only becomes the prime suspect in his murder but is also framed for the embezzlement. Left isolated from his former friends and co-workers, Danny takes hostages in order to clear his name.

The Negotiator begins as a fairly standard cop drama; it has the hero cop save the day at the beginning, they go for drinks to celebrate with their co-workers, they suddenly find themselves disgraced, then they have to hand in their gun and badge. It’s a set up that has been done before in many other films, one that you’ll be very familiar with. It’s what happens after this, though, that makes the film stand out.

The majority of the film has Jackson and his hostages in one office set, whilst his former colleagues attempt to defuse the situation. Because of the fact that Jackson’s character is trained in how to defuse a hostage situation, you’re not sure which cops are there to do their job and which ones are part of the conspiracy, and the central mystery of who is behind everything adds extra stakes to the whole thing.

The Negotiator is light on action and heavy on dialogue, but it’s the perfect film for it. Gun fights and punches would feel completely out of place here as the film tries to take a more real world approach to the police force and how they would act in a hostage situation.

Thanks to the film’s supporting cast you never feel bored, or that the film needs an action sequence to make things exciting. So many of the members of the police force are cast with great actors that a lot of film and television fans will instantly recognise. Ron Rifkin from Alias, John Spencer from The West Wing, David Morse from The Green Mile, Paul Giamatti from Billions, Bruce Beatty from Straight Outta Compton, and Michael Cudlitz from The Walking Dead, to name but a small few of the amazing cast of great character actors.

With a sharp and well paced story, a really clever script, and an amazing cast to populate the world, The Negotiator is one of the better examples of a police thriller, one that takes a different approach and puts the focus on the police, rather than the hunt for a villain, in a story that keeps you guessing as to who the real bad guys are right until the end.

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