Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Tyrese Gibson and Jon Keeyes Director: Jon Keeyes Screenplay: Mickey Solis Cast: Tyrese Gibson, Michael Jai White, Chris Backus, John Malkovich, Luna Lauren Velez, Holly Taylor, Carlos Sanchez, Brandi Bravo, Fedna Jacquet, Zani Jones Mbayise and Susannah Hoffman Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
A cat-and-mouse battle between a lone hero and a bunch of evildoers holding a bunch of hostages in an enclosed place has long been the stuff of action movies (just think of “Die Hard” and its innumerable sequels and imitators), but rarely has it been done so anemically as in this poverty-row quickie directed by Jon Keeyes from a script by Mickey Solis.
Tyrese Gibson is Kyle Snowden, an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD and now working for child protective services while taking care of his own daughter Angel (Zani Jones Mbayise). He and his partner spend the morning rescuing Manny (Carlos Sanchez), a cute little tyke, from the cruel guy with whom he’d been left.
Kyle has a strained relationship with his stepfather Sam Nelson (John Malkovich), a businessman and politician who’s advertising a new big-box store with a blizzard of television commercials inviting folks to come to the grand opening. Unfortunately, they attract the attention of Eagan Raize (Chris Backus), a mean-spirited fellow with a grudge against Nelson. He and his automatic-weapon-toting militia pals invade the store and take everyone in it—including Kyle, Angel and Manny, along with Sam and his bodyguard Starks (Michael Jai White)—hostage, demanding that Nelson publicly confess his crimes and that the authorities indict him. Otherwise he’ll kill off all his captives.
Naturally Kyle takes action, and in a protracted succession of combat sequences, with fists and firearms, whittles down Eagen’s mini-army until in the end the two face off one-on-one. The other hostages and store employees are periodically involved in the combat, too—most of them know one another and work together or at cross-purposes—while Nelson snivels in the background, a Malkovich specialty. But Keeyes never manages to make the layout of the store clear, and as a result everything the action has an ad-hoc, sloppy feel. He also relies way too much on that hoary old trope in which somebody is groveling on the floor about to be killed by a bad-guy, only to have the attacker be eliminated abruptly who suddenly appears behind him. By the close it’s happening so often that it’s hard to suppress a giggle.
Despite a few casualties along the way, the ending sees calm restored and Kyle adding a new adoptive son to his family. He even reaches an unlikely rapprochement with Sam. So we must conclude that despite all the bloodshed, the mayhem has had a salutary effect.
It’s always fun to watch Malkovich, however awful the material, and that’s the case here. But though Gibson does a gruff bear routine, he seems tired and out of sorts; White is in better form, though he doesn’t see nearly as much action, while Backus makes a pretty dull villain, despite all the snarls. Sanchez is cute, though. The technical credits—Pasha Patriki’s cinematography, Caley Bisson’s production design, Alan Canant’s editing, Benjamin Weinman’s score—are sub-par, and along with Keeyes’s clumsy direction give the result a slipshod feel.
“Rogue Hostage” is unlikely to win an Oscar for anything, but one might dream about it taking the Best Picture award, because in addition to its four full producers, no fewer than thirty-two executive and associate ones are listed in the credits. Any stage would undoubtedly collapse under the crush of such an army scrambling onto it to accept the trophy. To think the combined effort of so many could result in a stinker like this—a “Die Hard” wannabe in which the action is chaotic and the thrills entirely absent.