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Hostile Hostages Review

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A cat burglar is forced to take a bickering, dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve

★★★★

Every so often, a genuinely good little movie comes along that flops so dramatically at the box-office it goes by unnoticed. Hostile Hostages is a perfect example, a film that passed swiftly and silently(ital) in and out our cinemas in May, pulverised by the formidable Four Weddings And A Funeral.
Yet, despite an uneven streak, Ted Demme’s dark comedy is a delight, crossing the paths of the constantly bickering Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Davis and Spacey) with Gus (Leary), a thief down on his luck after a bungled burglary in their Connecticut neighbourhood.
Desperate to make his getaway, Gus kidnaps the couple (on Christmas Eve) and is soon holding them at gunpoint in their own home. Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned on abducting a pair whose arguments make even their marriage guidance counsellor blush and, much to his disbelief, finds himself lending a reluctantly sympathetic ear to the couple’s problems, all the while threatening to do the decent thing and blow their brains out. Matters are complicated by the arrival of the pair’s objectionable in-laws for Christmas dinner, forcing Gus to masquerade as the couple’s counsellor and culminating in a maliciously funny set-piece which neatly transforms him from villain to unlikely hero.
This could, of course, have been disastrously smug and contrived, but Demme (nephew of Jonathan) handles proceedings deftly, aided by a witty script and first-rate performances. Davis is a sensation, whether spitting venom at her anally-retentive husband or bemoaning her lot in life, while Leary is so good as the hapless hoodlum one has to wonder just why he remains pretty much an unknown quanitity in this country.
It doesn’t always work — a sub-plot involving the couple’s teenage son running a blackmail racket falls flat, and there are times when the whole thing threatens to drown in a sea of moral values — though, Hostage situation aside, this probably portrays a family Christmas more realistically than a thousand Home Alones.

Surprisingly good fun