The Negotiator Movie 1998 Scene Samuel L. Jackson as Danny Roman holding J.T. Walsh as Niebaum hostage

The Negotiator [1998]

Can any movie starring J.T. Walsh be bad? I submit to you that it simply cannot as the man is a true legend and this is his last movie. The Negotiator is an intense thriller following a cop who was set up and ends up taking hostages to prove his innocence. Not only are you invested in how the whole stand-off is going to turn out but you’re also constantly trying to figure out who are the bad guys. Add to this an excellent script and two great actors and you’ve got yourself a definition of an engaging thriller.

With the running time of just over two hours, The Negotiator manages to keep the suspense and action going ’till the last minute. Let me just tell you this, I started watching it late last night and simply could not turn it off. I wanted to know what was going to happen although I have seen the movie a couple of times before. It was so much fun to watch Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey go head to head as two expert negotiators. However, the supporting cast was also phenomenal. We’ve got the immortal J.T. Walsh, young Paul Giamatti, sturdy David Morse, and a host of other great actors.

They’ve injected this rather familiar story with a healthy dose of adrenaline and intensity. I mean, you see one hostage situation movie and you’ve seen them all. But have you seen a movie about hostage negotiators? I think this is the only one apart from Hostage that’s a bit more contained and formulaic. And to make things even better, The Negotiator is based on true fucking events! Yes, the whole thing happened ten years earlier and you can read about it in this AP article. But only after you’ve seen the movie. 

Danny Roman is one of the best negotiators Chicago police have and he just managed to solve another crisis without anyone getting killed. As the whole team is having fun at the bar, his partner Nate tells him that he’s on to something important. A couple of months ago, several million dollars were stolen from a pension fund scheme and Nate knows more about it. What happens next will through Danny into an uncomfortable situation and give him no choice but to take matters into his own hands.

The pacing is very fast so you won’t have time to think about a rather simplistic story or stereotypical characters. We whoosh from one situation to another as the tension just keeps rising and rising. As it inevitably does in all hostage situation movies. And you know me, I’m a sucker for single-location thrillers with great scripts. Here, we learn more about the art of negotiations and how these brave men and women use body language to find out more about their adversaries.

When it comes to production values, camerawork, and cinematography, this is technically almost a perfect movie. It’s got that big summer blockbuster vibe helped by a very familiar cast. The Negotiator reminded me a bit of Ricochet, another great nineties thriller starring Denzel Washington and John Lithgow. So, if you’re looking for similar movies, do check it out although I should tell you that it doesn’t feature hostage negotiations. 

I also must mention Against The Wall, another hostage situation movie based on true events starring Samuel L. Jackson. It’s much more serious than this one focusing on the infamous Attica prison riot. And you can always take a look at our Rabbit Reviews selection of Police Movies.

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writers: James DeMonaco, Kevin Fox

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, J.T. Walsh, Paul Giamatti

Fun Facts: Kevin Spacey didn’t like the original ending set in an abandoned railway station where our protagonists fight the entire police department. The ending you see in the movie is completely different.

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IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120768/