Do you remember the days when you couldn't read a review of a Bruce Willis film without it featuring the words "shit-eating" and "grin" in close proximity? Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout and even Armageddon all featured Brucie flashing his pearly choppers in sheer enjoyment of the bangs, blazes and bullets going off around him.
Not any more. These days, he's a man who scowls his way through movies, letting you know just how much pain his character is in by writing it across his physog in letters of blood. It may make him a top pupil in his Method acting class, but it seldom gives a dozing thriller the boot up the backside it needs.
Hostage is a solid enough movie. Grim and gritty in the early stages, it moves through the gears in the mid-section as the plot complicates before aiming for a full-throated Hollywood engine roar as the predictable finale looms.
The Willis of old would have grin-and-capered his way through it, playing the star, letting audiences know that they didn't have to take any of it too seriously. Willis redux, though, treats it like an Ibsen play, agonising over everything.
It just doesn't work. Hostage isn't tight, clever or grown-up enough for Brucie to act this way. He's not in Heat or even in Se7en - he's playing the lead in a formulaic thriller. If director Florent Emilio Siri was willing to counterpoint the bog standard script with some flashy camerawork reminiscent of Fincher or inject a more operatic tone into it à la Michael Mann, then Willis may have had the elbow room for his serious thesping.
Here he doesn't. Hostage is your average Friday night popcorner - kinda like Die Hard-meets-Panic Room minus most of the thrills - - and what it needs is charisma. Without it, there's no dazzling centre to blind you to the flaws (Ben Foster's snarling villain) or clichés (how can one house have so many ventilation shafts?), meaning we're left to ogle a glum, gloomy star in a mediocre vehicle. Shame.