This familiar but proficient spy yarn stars Sam Neill as Rennie, an experienced hit man for the British Secret Service who is having a mid-life crisis precipitated by one dirty job too many. In London, his boss Hugo Paynter (James Fox) tries to ferret him out by showing Rennie's ex-wife a pair of empty coffins with their children's names on them, but...read more
This familiar but proficient spy yarn stars Sam Neill as Rennie, an experienced hit man for the British Secret Service who is having a mid-life crisis precipitated by one dirty job too many.
In London, his boss Hugo Paynter (James Fox) tries to ferret him out by showing Rennie's ex-wife a pair of empty coffins with their children's names on them, but Rennie meets her in secret to assure her that he's worked out a protective plan, and in a seedy hotel in Buenos Aires, Rennie starts
dictating a tape recounting his last mission. In flashback, Rennie has just finished his previous job of rubbing out an IRA terrorist, and Paynter briefs him on his next mission: to rescue or eliminate Mason (Trevor Bannister), a defense analyst privy to details of secret UK arms-dealing in the
Middle East, who has been kidnapped by radical Kurdish freedom fighters in Argentina. Paynter and his SIS cohort, Fredericks (Michael Kitchen), send Rennie to Buenos Aires businessman Kalim (Art Malik), who may have been in on the plot. Rennie infiltrates his family through Kalim's sister-in-law,
Joanna (Talisa Soto), who is a nanny for their two young daughters, and Rennie and Joanna fall immediately in love. To speed the process, Paynter sends a crew to kidnap Kalim's children, and Rennie helps them by waylaying Joanna. Kalim turns to Rennie, who he trusts, and Rennie realizes that the
terrified Kalim was merely used by the terrorists to set up Mason. Joanna senses Rennie's part in the plot and breaks off their affair. Rennie tracks down Mason and rescues him, killing his amateurish captors, and he is shocked when Kalim's two children are returned, probably permanently damaged
by the drugs used to subdue them. Himself a devoted--if divorced--father, Rennie warns Paynter he will follow no more unacceptable orders.
With Rennie now a liability, Paynter puts a contract out on him, and Rennie flees to Buenos Aires. Having put all this on tape, Rennie now contacts Paynter and tells him that if he or any of his family is harmed, the tapes will go to the media. Joanna listens to the tapes, forgives Rennie, and
becomes his lover once again. The pair go on the run and board a cargo ship. The SIS assassin has Rennie in his telescopic sights, but Paynter orders him not to shoot--at least for now.
While its Middle East-South American shenanigans theme is atypical, HOSTAGE is a throwback to the espionage-as-dirty-business spy movies, best represented by THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965), which were a welcome antidote to the popular hoopla inspired by James Bond. The screenplay, by
Arthur Hopcraft, is cleanly written (if filled with familiar ingredients) and concisely plotted, and Robert Young's direction is taut and visually detailed throughout. Young keeps things moving smartly, and he has gotten a fine performance from the New Zealand-born Sam Neill as the spy who's had
enough and is savvy enough to engineer his way out of his lethal business with some hope of living out his natural life. Less good but adequate is Talisa Soto (THE MAMBO KINGS) as his new-found, redemption-promising paramour; the pair fail to generate many sparks as lovers. Veteran James Fox has
sinister fun portraying Neill's SIS boss as an upper-class twit (as only Fox can), with the unfortunate power to erase lives with sweeps of his custom-made fountain pen on paper. Produced by Tom Kinninmont, this sharp-looking British-Spanish co-production was shot by American Alex Phillips on
excellent locations in London and Buenos Aires, and Richard Harvey's covering score is inventive. HOSTAGE is based on a novel, No Place to Hide, by real-life British spy Ted Allbery, who was the model for character of spy Harry Palmer played by Michael Caine in an exceptional trio of films
beginning with THE IPCRESS FILE (1965). HOSTAGE was released direct-to-video in the US. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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