The Hostage (1998)

Much like some nightmarish Escher-like painting, my quest to get to the end of David A Prior’s filmography appears to get further and further away no matter how many movies I watch. I’ve passed the point where I’m providing useful information to you, dear reader, and now it’s some war of attrition – which leads us to a slight backtracking and 1998’s “The Hostage”. I picked it because it features Ted Prior in a leading role, high billing for Dana Plato, just a year before her unfortunate death (I talk more about her in my review of “Compelling Evidence”) and Cynthia Rothrock, one of our favourite kung-fu / action movie stars.

But then, as the credits rolled, I noticed our old friend David A Prior as second unit director! This isn’t on IMDB (although I submitted a change after seeing this), and second unit directors do stuff like film stunts and establishing shots and so on. Was he bored and owed someone a favour, or did Ted lobby to give his brother a few days worth of work? We’ll never know.

ASIDE: Dana Plato was directed by three men the ISCFC has covered extensively: Donald Farmer (“Compelling Evidence”), Michael Paul Girard (“Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill and Jill”) and now this. This represents…well, nothing great, that’s for sure.

This is a story of a pathetically incompetent group of high-end thieves, who are out-thought and out-fought at every possible opportunity by security guards, cops and a few scattered FBI agents. Their plan, such as it is, is useless, their execution worse, and apart from Ted (playing a character called Ted) they’re all schlubby and don’t move like they’ve had any training at all. The guy who’s set up to have a big role, being the first person we see and getting a lot of screen time at the beginning, is unceremoniously shot in some crossfire about halfway through and never mentioned again, and the ending is stupid.

So, with all that being said, let’s do some recapping! After an irrelevant cold open, presumably just there to get it to feature length, we meet Ted, who’s sad that his wife is dead. He’s a former soldier of some sort, and decides the best way to earn money is to sign on with an Alex “Infowars” Jones lookalike criminal mastermind, who has picked a super-rich businessman as his next target.

The team are boring and indistinct, and you will not go to your grave wishing I’d spent ages listing them all for you, so let’s just move on. The rich businessman, rather than having an office, does his business from a relatively large suburban home, with lots of assistants and computers just in the dining room or the kitchen or wherever. This might be a deliberate choice or it might be that someone associated with the production had a big house they could film in (I’ll go with the latter), but there it is.

Three years of planning have led to this moment. Three years. So they walk in the door, act suspicious, the businessman’s guards ask them who they really are, then everyone starts shooting. I’m an idiot and I could have come up with a better plan than that after about ten minutes! The crooks are outnumbered and the guards have more guns – also, they call the authorities for help almost immediately. First, some cops turn up, then FBI hostage specialist Cynthia Rothrock. There’s a cool bit where some cops are sexist but the main cop, a fellow called Sparks, says “if she was a guy, you’d be running round saying yes sir admiring what a badass he was” which is perhaps the only line of any note in this whole experience.

Anyway, the plan rolls along, and they don’t bother doing anything like having either side be good guys or bad guys, or even just people you want to see succeed. It’s a businessman who might or might not be a scumbag against some thieves who might or might not be psychos. Later on, both sides even dress the same, to really amp up the confusion.

I feel like there’s not a lot of point saying more, as nothing really happens. One interesting thing is it’s shot on video, giving everything that ugly sheen. I’m surprised Prior and Rothrock agreed to take part in what amounts to little more than a home video, but one would presume their cheques cleared before they set foot on the set.

I’m not entirely sure this movie was ever officially released. The version I found says “for screening purposes only” and the only other online review of this I read got it from the same place as me – also, one of the actors commented on it and said they thought it had never been released either. So, good luck getting hold of a copy, if this review has for some reason made you want to watch it.

Director Bryan Todd (who also acts as one of the criminals) is now in reality TV, having made a Jersey Shore spin off about Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s post-superfame life among other things; writer Zac Reeder is an executive producer on “Outpost”. So, this movie didn’t kill either career, although it probably should have done. Oh, and there are actors by the name of Rob Lowe and Don Johnson as goons and extras, and no I’m not going back to check if it’s a couple of really well-hidden cameos by former A-listers, and not just a non-union production not giving a toss about the names they use.

A really genuinely tedious experience.

Rating: thumbs down


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