This is a movie I’ve seen on TBS about 4-5 times, this was the first time I’d ever watched it in full unedited. It’s a bit hard to judge knowing most of the twists beforehand from memory but I don’t think the movie is all that predictable. Sam Jackson is a hostage negotiator, the dude from Without a Trace is his partner. Sam demonstrates his heroism right at the start so that the audience has no qualms with what’s about to occur.
Without a Trace man gets shot and Sam Jackson is the primary suspect. He had inside information on a police corruption scandal and Samuel knows that his conviction is a certainty; thus he takes action and takes the only lead he has hostage alongside his secretary, a con, and a cop. He tears apart the first attempted negotiator and calls for Kevin Spacey to replace him. Spacey is available and the plot goes on from there in semi-predictable fashion; enough being done so that the audience doesn’t lose their affinity for Sam Jackson throughout.
The movie does have a small amount of comedy in this portion, though it quickly moves on to thriller “guess what happens next” silliness. But for being a 90s movie it isn’t all that cliché’d; I guess the only thing you could easily figure out is who’s the main traitor. The acting is excellent; apart from the two exceptional leads most of the supporting cast is great as well. Paul Giomatti is around as well, this is before he became a lead actor and he was still great as a supporting actor prior to Sideways/Cinderella Man.
I suppose if I was to criticize something it’s the plausibility of Kevin Spacey being able to prevent Sam Jackson from being sniped by hundreds of Chicago policemen. Additionally though he’s a Negotiator Sam also seems to be the most competent “SWAT” sort of guy around and holds off two breach attempts in what seems to be a fairly large building. If they had chosen a narrower office building it might be more plausible that one guy could hold an entire floor by himself.
The very end of the movie is a little magical and providential; the old “get the bad guys to screw themselves” routine. Still there’s a halfway decent twist there and a bit of visual variety from the rest of the picture. Clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes this is a pretty long movie for a thriller; though 90’s movies were longer per capita I believe so suppose that’s a product of the era. You could probably cut out about 15 minutes and still have a solid film; but it isn’t all that much of a blight.