Grade: D-

A skunk is featured in one of the sequences of this vehicle forTV comic Jamie Foxx. It’s not a prominent part, but the little
critter’s influence can be felt throughout this stinker, a
stillborn, stagebound piece about a hip Chicago dude who gets
stranded at an isolated Arizona convenience store and becomes
a hostage during a failed robbery attempt. Most of the picture
is a tediously claustrophobic account of the supposedly comic
siege of the place by a lovably redneck sheriff (Barry Corbin)
and his hapless deputies (one of whom is a surprisingly
restrained Jake Busey); we’re supposed to chortle over Foxx’s
antic interaction with the gunman (Eduardo Yanez) as well as
with the other hostages–the store owner (John Cullum), a
stoic biker (Michael Shamus Wiles), and a local bride-to-be
(Sarah Paulson), but even the comedian’s most frantic efforts
can’t salvage the flimsy material. Toward the close the
script turns sentimental and sappy as the would-be robber’s
motives are revealed (leading to a “Russians Are Coming” sort
of happy denouement) and Foxx must rush to catch up with the
fiance (Nia Long) who’d abandoned him at the store in response
to his fiscally irresponsible ways.

Foxx is certainly an amiable presence, and his frentic, wise-
cracking persona could become a real hit on the big screen. But
“Held Up” provides him with little beyond a set-up; it’s
conceivable that something amusing could have been whipped up
around the notion of a small-town hostage crisis in which an
out-of-his-element city dude was involved, but the episodes
concocted by Jeff Eastin here are so limp and stale that the
performers appear to have been forced into desperate and
decidedly unfunny improvisation. To make matters worse, Steve
Rash’s direction lets everything plod on sluggishly; despite
occasional bursts of gunfire, the air of laid-back placidity
makes the whole film overwhelmingly soporific.

Fans of “Northern Exposure” might find it pleasant to see
Barry Corbin and John Cullum together again, but while both
men try to add a bit of the old series’ whimsy to their roles,
it’s a losing battle. It might be Foxx who’s the hostage in
“Held Up,” but by the time the static, feeble movie crawls to a
close it’s the audience that will feel trapped.