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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.

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