An expert negotiator is set up for the murder of his partner,
and takes hostages himself to prove his innocence.
The Negotiator (1998)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse,
Ron Rifkin, J.T. Walsh, John Spencer, Siobhan Fallon Hogan,
Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor, Michael Cudlitz, Dean Norris
There's something about the 90s action movie that stands out. It's the perfect balance of drama, action, and cheese that faded away as soon as the clocks chimed midnight on the last day of 1999. Thankfully, during that ten year span, we got some of the most exciting, ridiculous, and unique action movies ever made. One standout is 1998's The Negotiator, which pairs the unlikely duo of expert character actor Samuel L. Jackson with future kid diddler and Hollywood outcast Kevin Spacey. The mission: Jackson must prove his innocence by taking hostages inside the internal affairs office, and Spacey has to talk him down while also figuring out what's really going on. While the film is super long and could've been trimmed down a tad, it's a damn good movie. Just tense enough to maintain a consistent bead of neck sweat the entire time.
Jackson is Lt. Danny Roman, a negotiator who talks nuts out of blowing their children's brains out. One day, he's framed for the murder of his partner, and is facing a life sentence. He decides to take matters into his own hands and takes the IA cop he's pretty sure was involved hostage. Now, Danny is facing the entire Chicago police force, led by Lt. Chris Sabian (Spacey), an even better negotiator who has never gotten anyone killed. The game begins as Danny tries to uncover info on who really killed his partner and who set him up, but the culprits are inside the walls as he must be careful not to get himself killed. F. Gary Gray is one of those directors who always hits but is not often mentioned when discussing great filmmakers. This is another gem of his that has since fallen under the radar despite success in '98.
The Negotiator is an intense, unpredictable film with a satisfying ending and a host of great performances. It still hurts watching Spacey perform knowing what he was doing behind the scenes, but Jackson balances the equation with a determined performance of a man nearing his breaking point. Definitely a decent watch.