Starring: Julie Benz, Bruce McGill, Natasha Calis
Directed By: Grant Harvey
What is worse than being the victim of a violent home invasion, explosives being wrapped around you and your only daughter and then being forced to betray your co-workers and rob your employer? Maybe having nobody believe you, maybe being accused of being the mastermind behind the crime, maybe having your shameful past exposed and plastered all over the papers and TV. That’s the type of question that Held Hostage presents, but the only question I was asking myself during the movie was, “is it almost over?”
The movie starts with the husky voice of Julie Benz giving us brief monologue about running away over a flashback of a young girl running away from home. Then, on a title card, comes one of the most overused cliché’s in the movies, “Based on a True Story.” Now years later Michelle Estey, played by Julie Benz, is the branch manger of a bank. We follow Michelle through a typical day, getting Breea, her daughter played by Narasha Calis, ready for school, chit chatting with her employees, accepting the deposit from an armored car, interviewing a couple for a home mortgage and then to top the day off heading out for a one night stand.
The next day is not so typical, that night while Michelle and Breea are eating popcorn and watching TV three masked men bust into the house. What follows is the best part of the movie so I don’t want to give away to many details in case you make the mistake of watching the movie, but everything ends up with Michelle and Breea each being strapped to several sticks of dynamite. The plan is for Michelle to go into work, stuff all of the money from the vault into a large duffel bag and then walk it out of the bank to one of the masked men. Then Michelle will be reunited with Breea and the explosives will be removed.
The heist goes off as planned, Michelle delivers the money to the crooks and she is released. After gingerly removing the explosives from her body she races home to find Breea and safely removes the explosives from her as well. Michelle rushes Breea out of the house to a neighbor’s to call the police. Michelle thinks her nightmare is over, but in truth the nightmare is just beginning.
Enter Bruce McGill playing the Detective Ben Summers, he doesn’t quite believe Michelle, there is something about the story that just doesn’t add up for him. Instead of being provided police protection Michelle and Breea are put up in a cheap motel in a rough part of town. When Michelle meets with Detective Summers a second time he reveals that the explosives were not real and that Michelle is actually a suspect in the robbery. Shortly after the real crooks are caught and Michelle thinks everything is over, but again the nightmare just gets worse. The leader of the bank robbers claims that Michelle and he were lovers and that Michelle was the mastermind of the whole thing. And believe it or not it gets even worse for Michelle when unsavory bits of her past start to come out.
It turns out though all of that really has nothing to do with what this movie is about. The true conflict of the movie is not between Michelle and the bank robbers or even Michelle and Detective Ben Summers, the true conflict of the movie is within Michelle. Eventually the police provide a therapist for Michelle and Breea. The therapist reveals that Michelle and Breea are both suffering from PTSD and thorough some mental judo helps Michelle figure out that she has to heal the relationship with her estranged Mother before her and Breea can truly recover from this traumatic experience or something like that, by this point the storytelling is kind of fuzzy.
The plot is a bit like the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials, “you got your suspense movie in my Lifetime Movie of the Week movie, you got your Lifetime Movie of the Week movie in my suspense movie.” There is a real bait and switch going on here. What starts out as a decent enough B level suspense thriller morphs into a paint by number C level drama. Sometimes a bit of genre bashing can be just what the doctor ordered, but not in this case. That’s not the worst part of the story though. The resolution just happens. All of Michelle’s problems just start to go away. It’s as simple as her deciding on a course of action and then it all just falls into place. Topping it all off is possibly the worst court room scene put on film. Anybody who has ever watched more than three episodes of Law & Order will be scoffing at the shenanigans going on in the courtroom.
The story is weak and the acting is not any better. Julie Benz emotes but she’s never all that sympathetic, Bruce McGill phones in a less than mediocre performance, the supporting cast is actually not that bad however and Natasha Calis plays a very believable scared little girl. The direction is uninspired and the sound track while adequate is clichéd. You have probably seen worse movies, but what really kills Held Hostage is that it never gives a compelling reason that you should watch it.
The movie is presented in widescreen format and the video quality is excellent. I never noticed any aliasing or moiré or any other sort of problems with the transfer. The color palate is a little odd. Everything seems to have a slight greenish tint, it’s as if the whole movie was shot on overcast days, which is only odd in that the movie is supposed to take place in Southern California.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The audio is presented in just English but there are English and Spanish subtitles. The mix is excellent, dialog is always clear, never overpowered by the foley or the score. I never noticed any distortion or other artifacts of digital compression.
The Packaging/Bonus Features
The DVD comes packaged in a standard Amaray case. The cover art plays up the suspense/thriller aspects of the movie and gives no hint of the Lifetime Movie of the Week flavor of the film. If you bought this DVD based on the cover art you would be disappointed. The only extra provided on the DVD is the trailer for the film.
Overall (Not an Average): 3/10
The Movie: 3/10
The Video: 8/10
The Audio: 8/10
The Packaging/Bonus Features: 3/10
Overall (Not and Average) 3/10