Directed by Grant Harvey, a director who has worked on various television shows and features over the years including Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, Held Hostage stars Julie Benz, best known for her work as Rita on Showtime's Dexter. In this movie, Benz plays a woman named Michelle Estey, a single mom who works as a bank manager and lives with her young daughter, Breea (Natasha Calis). One night, three masked men force their way into her home, loaded guns pointed towards her, and duct tape the two of them to some explosives. The only way these three guys are going to let Michelle and Breea out of this alive is if Michelle agrees to help them pull off a high risk bank robbery - she's got some insider information that they could use, hence their motive for this home invasion.
With no other choice, Michelle agrees to this and they strap some dynamite to her chest and send her on into the bank to make the withdrawal. Of course, everyone suspects this is all her idea, but we know the truth and that she's been put up to it. Will the cops and the people she works with at the bank believe her or will she be the one who takes the fall for the three gunmen?
Originally shown on television, Held Hostage is pretty predictable stuff and it definitely follows that formula used by other, similar films in which a single mother must rise above and defeat her male oppressors. There's something to be said for a story in which a likeable character overcomes the odds and works his or her way out of a tricky situation, many great films and novels have followed this path, but here we don't really get to know Michelle well enough or care all that much about her. She's likeable enough, Benz brings that kind vulnerability to pretty much every role she's been in since Dexter type cast her in those types of parts, but there's no meat on her character's bones. Having a young daughter allows us to sympathize to an extent, but both the Michelle character and the Breea character are both fairly one dimensional, there's not enough background information on either one of them to really make them feel truly human.
Had the film had more suspense and less predictability and cliché ridden meandering, it might have been able to make up for the shallow characters but it doesn't. Since we're able to figure out very easily and very early on where this is all heading, the movie is actually fairly devoid of suspense and tension all together. The novel that the movie is based on was in turn inspired by the true life story of Michelle Renee, a woman who really did get held hostage and was forced to rob a bank. How much of what we see in the film is realistic compared to Renee's story or not is hard to say, but there are a few spots here, particularly a court room scene, in which our suspension of disbelief is sorely tested and with the believability factor hurt in spots, so too is the movie itself.
What the film has going for it Benz herself. You can't help but like her, she just seems so kind and pleasant. She's pretty, she's charming, and she's proven herself to be a very capable actress when given good material to work with. Sadly, Held Hostage isn't going to sit high atop her filmography. IT's not a horrible film by any stretch, it's just a fairly bland one.
Held Hostage is presented in a fairly average looking 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features satisfactory color reproduction and acceptable detail in the foreground and the background of the image at all times. Some obvious compression artifacts are present in some of the darker scenes but there isn't any print damage or heavy edge enhancement to complain about. Some scenes are a bit on the soft side and it's hard to tell if this was a stylistic choice or not. Shot on a low budget, the film won't blow your mind with amazing detail and superb colors but it's certainly watchable enough.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is of fairly decent quality. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Dialogue comes through clearly at all times and the score and sound effects are fine. There is some good rear channel surround activity in a few scenes if you want to listen for it, though this is a fairly front heavy mix overall. Don't look for any alternate language dubs, there aren't any, but there are optional subtitles included in English and Spanish.
The disc includes a static menu and chapter selection - that's it. You'd think that the 'based on a true story' aspect of the film would have allowed for a really interesting featurette or commentary track but that didn't happen.
A mediocre thriller, Held Hostage is predictable, fairly uninspired, and at times flat out tepid. Julie Benz is okay in the lead role but she's not really given all that much to do here. Image's DVD release looks okay and sounds fairly good but doesn't have any extra features to help make up for the lackluster main attraction. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.