Film Reviews

Held Hostage

Day 1: It was just part of the job, just another movie on another afternoon. This one promised to be no more special than any other, save the casting of Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. Proof of Life was the movie during which they fell in love, or whatever it is people call adultery in Hollywood. She left Dennis Quaid for Russell Crowe. In the used-car biz, they call that "trading up." If nothing else the curiosity factor's high on this movie. Look for big box-office opening weekend, especially among the Inside Edition-National Enquirer mouth-breathers. Other than that, am expecting very little. Taylor Hackford hasn't directed a good movie since... since... Sorry, it isn't coming to me. Was going to write An Officer and a Gentleman but am not in so generous a mood. Being kidnapped makes a man mean.

Day 3: This movie begins where most movies end -- with escapes and explosions, chaos and climax. Crowe is speaking over the action, narrating what we see on screen: His character, Terry Thorne, is a special-forces commando turned hostage retriever, an expert in kidnap and ransom, or "K&R" as everyone in the movie calls it. He's in Chechnya, recovering a kidnapped Russian. Or maybe the guy's German. Or Lithuanian. Hard to tell over all the explosions. Movie looks to have been edited by someone using a chain saw with his feet. Hard to follow. Terry tells his bosses "extrication did not go down well."

Hope rest of the movie isn't so difficult to decipher. Fortunately publicist for the movie handed out wine and cheese before movie started -- a holiday thing, probably, but more likely a way to distract audience by getting it drunk and full before opening credits. Have sneaked in large bottle of red wine. It does go down well. Plan on finishing it in its entirety before movie ends. If it ends.

Day 4: Peter Bowman (David Morse), an American engineer in fictional South American country of Tecala, is introduced. Peter is building a dam for the locals. He's in a helicopter, talking on cell phone to wife Alice (Meg Ryan). Peter tells Alice she's a "hippie," though there's little evidence of this, unless hippie now means "chain smoker who doesn't wear bra." Peter discovers that Houston-based oil company for which he works is about to be bought out, and his dam is damned. Turns out it's nothing but "humanitarian window-dressing." Peter and Alice fight a lot. She mentions something about having a miscarriage five months earlier in Africa. Peter tells Alice to get a job or go back to the States. He doesn't really mean it.

Day 7: Peter, stuck in traffic, gets kidnapped by Marxist rebel forces, who have given up Karl for cocaine. They hold him for $3 million ransom. A local says she doesn't "understand my country anymore." (Don't understand movie yet but am hoping to later.)

Day 10: Terry finally turns up to rescue Peter. Finally Crowe and Ryan are on screen together. Turns out they create all the sparks of two wet pieces of paper being rubbed together.

Am beginning to notice that Meg Ryan sometimes looks like Melanie Griffith. Very creepy.

Terry tells Alice that kidnapping is "a game you play whether you like it or not." Sounds like canasta at my grandmother's house.

Day 13: Terry runs into fellow K&R expert Dino, which answers the question, "Hey, whatever happened to David Caruso?" Plastic surgery, looks like.

Day 16: Peter's sister, Janis (Pamela Reed, who seems to have forgotten how to act), shows up from Denver. Bulges eyes a lot.

Can't help but notice irony: Reed played Dennis Quaid's wife in The Right Stuff. Wonder if Ryan and Reed ever discuss this.

Alice begs Terry to explain his mission "step by step." He proceeds to do so.

Half of bottle of wine is now gone. Begin to worry it will not last throughout personal hostage crisis. Begin considering switching to cold medicine in possession of woman sitting in next seat.

David Morse, now being held in rebels' lush mountainside camp, has grown beard and looks very dirty.

Woman in next seat remarks that he looks like Bill Clinton when he attended Oxford. Must remember this.

Day 24: Terry tells Alice, "You need to settle in for a long haul." (Am thinking this would have made better title for movie.)

Day 43: Terry tells Alice they are supposed to pick up ransom instructions beneath a purple Jesus in a local church.

Am beginning to feel nauseous and disoriented. Fear wine has nothing to do with this. Consider forming band and calling it Purple Jesus, if Prince hasn't already trademarked.

Day 68: Peter is moved to new camp. Meets and forms relationship with French Legionnaire turned missionary Eric Kessler (Gottfried John).

Did not know French Legion still existed. Note to self: Spend less time reading Legion of Super-Heroes.

More sparks between Peter and Eric than between Terry and Alice.

Hope for some Midnight Express action. No such luck. Escape attempt ensues, but can't get out of seat for fear of tipping over what little remains of wine.

Day 98: Terry gets Peter's ransom down to $600,000. (Wonder if projectionist will accept this amount to end movie.)

Day 139: Terry and Dino decide to free Peter and another hostage from prison camp. Before leaving, Terry and Alice share brief kiss. Only hint of romance between two in entire movie.

Remind self to look up antonym of sexy. Begin wondering if family misses me yet. Doubt it.

Day 143: Movie ends. Either that or projectionist has passed out and forgotten to load 432nd reel of film. Look forward to hot shower and shave, good meal, long sleep. Realize movie was only two hours and 15 minutes. Reconsider career, life.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky