Tag Archives: Samuel L. Jackson

Throwback Review: The Negotiator

The Negotiator Review: Still a great film, 17 years later.

What I Remembered: I first saw The Negotiator approximately a year after it was released. Despite the fact, that it seemed to have a formidable cast based on its trailer which felt contrived, I was less than enthusiastic about seeing it. However, after a friend whose tastes were somewhat similar to mine recommended it, I decided to give it a shot. After starting it, I could not believe how wrong my initial impressions were. Furthermore, I thought that it was proof of how a poorly executed trailer can mislead an audience about the quality of a particular piece of cinema. What I found was an intriguing, skillfully put together movie, with very good acting and some exciting moments. Having watched it again recently my initial feeling has remained largely unchanged.
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The Story: The Negotiator stars Samuel L. Jackson as Danny Roman. Danny is a Chicago Police Department hostage negotiator and is quite adept at his job. This is made very clear during the opening scene of the film where he defuses a terribly dangerous situation involving a deranged man who will kill his young daughter unless his wife watches him commit suicide, by risking his own safety to end the situation without any loss of life. That evening while celebrating the successful operation as well as his chief’s birthday, Danny is told by his partner and best friend Nate (Paul Guilfoyle), that the latter been contacted by fellow police officer who is also an informant. The informant has told Nate that unnamed fellow officers in Danny’s precinct have been stealing money from the Chicago P.D. Disability Fund and that the chief of internal affairs may also be involved in the scheme. While at home after the party, Danny receives a page from Nate asking to meet him in a parking lot. When Danny arrives he finds Nate murdered with a gun shot wound to the head. Danny is then the prime suspect in Nate’s murder and the fraud and larceny that has taken place involving the Disability Fund. When it appears that he will be arrested, charged and most likely convicted with these crimes that he did not commit, Danny takes matters into his own hands in a drastic way.

Technical Details:  The Negotiator has many technical facets to it. F. Gary Gray provided some excellent direction and was able to capture the atmosphere of excitement, fear and mystery that pervaded the film in an excellent way. James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox wrote an excellent script with fully dimensional characters, some wonderful plot twists, and some very informative moments, like when Danny shows how you can tell when someone is lying. Furthermore, the movie’s pacing and editing were absolutely great as it moves along in a fast paced, dramatic way. Finally, the supporting cast were all top notch. This was especially the case with Paul Giamatti, David Morse, Ron Rifkin and the two late greats, John Spencer and J.T. Walsh.
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As good as the supporting cast was though, the two best performances in the piece were those of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey as fellow hostage negotiator Chris Sabian. Both of these excellent actors were in their best form as they played each character with a tremendous amount of depth, sympathy and realism. Moreover, the chemistry and back and forth between the two of them was really fun to watch.

However, for all of its facets the picture did have some flaws. Namely, these were a few scenes between Danny and his wife that felt a little artificial and a couple of brief moments during the middle portion of the movie where Sam Jackson felt like he was slightly overacting. That being said, they didn’t diminish the quality of The Negotiator too much.

End Credits: Though it was released over seventeen years ago, The Negotiator is as good now as it was then. It has all of the mystery and suspense one would expect from a movie of its kind and is better than a lot of the movies like it that followed. Even though there are some moments in it that are not the best in the world, that doesn’t take away from all of the good aspects of it. So, if you want to kick back with a film for a couple of hours and want something exciting to see, try The Negotiator. I highly doubt that you will regret it.

New Hateful Eight Trailer Arrives

The new Hateful Eight trailer is here. And it is bloody cold.

Despite the recent political backlash facing director, Quentin Tarantino’s march in a anti- police violence rally in NY, the latest trailer for his new movie, The Hateful Eight has appeared on the internet. As you you know round here at The Film Box, we are big fans of anything having to do with westerns.

The new hateful Eight trailer gives us a good look at the main characters in the film with Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson taking center stage as the bounty hunter and hangman respectively. Among them in the snowed in cottage are a colorful collection of charterers including an ex confederate, sheriff, a Mexican, the little man, a cowboy, and the prisoner, Daisy Domergue played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Despite having Tarantino’s characteristic witty dialogue and propensity towards violence, the film looks very…. cold. The winter elements play a heavy role in the film as it brings the characters together for some quality time for sake of being snowed in.

The Hateful Eight is set for release on December 25, 2015.

Throwback Review: Basic

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Basic: An Excellent Movie Where Hardly Anything Is Basic

What I Remembered: I was very interested in seeing Basic when it first came out in 2003. However, it kind of came and went when it was in theaters at least where I was living. Maybe this had to due with the fact that it was released during the beginning of the Iraq War and the general public was not up for seeing a military themed film. So, I was eager to see it when it came out on video a few months later. I came away pleasantly surprised. I saw a well scripted, well acted, interesting mystery with a great ending. Having seen it several times since then, my appreciation for it has only grown. It is an excellently layered piece of cinema where you catch a new detail the ties it together nicely every time you see it.

The Story: Basic takes place largely at a United States Military Base in Panama. Most of a group of soldiers training to be Army Rangers and their sergeant have disappeared during a training exercise that was taking place during a hurricane warning. One of the soldiers remaining is injured in the hospital and a second was shot and killed by another Ranger, who is the only one left alive and uninjured.

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The sole intact Ranger is interviewed by the Base’s in house investigator Captain Julia Osborne(Connie Nielsein). The Ranger stays silent and writes on a pad of paper that he will only speak to a fellow Ranger who does not work on the base as he doesn’t trust anyone else. The base commander Colonel Styles, (Tim Daly) agrees to his demand after seeing the note himself. Styles asks his friend Tom Hardy (John Travolta) a D.E.A. agent and former Ranger currently under investigation for taking a bribe from a drug dealer, to assist in interrogating the Ranger who goes by the name of Ray Dunbar. Styles seeks Hardy’s help not only out of friendship, but because Hardy was one of the best interrogators the Army ever had before he left the service. As Styles puts it,” Tom Hardy could get inside your head faster than you could tie your shoes.”

The uncouth character of Hardy arrives to begin the interrogation with Osborne. Sure enough, Dunbar begins to talk to Hardy soon after he starts to question him. Dunbar refuses to talk about the night in question, but tells Hardy about the previous duration of training that went on with his fellow Rangers and their superior, the sadistic Sergeant West (Samuel L. Jackson). But, as the night continues and they keep questioning Dunbar and the injured seal Kendall, an elaborate story emerges with many twists and turns in it.

Technical Details: Basic is an all around exemplary film technically. John McTiernan once again showed off his well honed directing chops as he delivered a movie with mystery and action elements that was not brainless. Furthermore, the most interesting aspect of his direction was his ability to demonstrate the feeling of what life is like on a military base in general and on this one in Panama in particular. In short, he showed how a U.S. military base is its own world with its own types of people and its own rules.

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Along with McTiernan’s direction, James Vanderbilt wrote an excellent script. It had vivid characters, an interesting original plot, humor mixed with suspense and wonderful layers to it that all made sense in the end. According to the DVD special features, Vanderbilt did a great deal of research and put a great deal of thought into his movie and it shows quite well.

Lastly and possibly most importantly, the performances in the movie were excellent. Brian Van Holt, Connie Nielsen, Taye Diggs, Giovanni Ribisi and Harry Conick Junior were all first rate. (In fact, it’s hard to believe that acting is not Connick Junior’s main profession because he is quite good at it.) Moreover, Samuel L. Jackson was intimidating as ever as Sergeant West.

In my opinion, the standout in this film was John Travolta. He made the character of Tom Hardy a great anti-hero. Travolta’s Hardy is an intelligent, tough, funny and interesting, believable man with many sides to him. The fact that Travolta was able to do this with such seeming effortlessness and likeability was a great credit to him and his talent.

End Credits: Basic is an all around great movie. If you like a good plot, you’ll like it. If you like good directing, you’ll like it. If you like good acting, you’ll like it. Essentially, if you like good films you should like this one.