Top 365 Films – #324 – The Negotiator (1998)

Top 365 Films - The NegotiatorDIRECTED BY: F. Gary Gray

STARRING: Samuel L Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, JT Walsh, Siobhan Fallon, Regina Taylor and Paul Giamatti

BUDGET: $50m

EARNED (Worldwide): $48.9m




In a desperate attempt to prove his innocence, a skilled police negotiator accused of corruption and murder takes hostages in a government office to gain the time he needs to find the truth.


Lieutenant Danny Roman is one of the top police hostage negotiator’s around. When we first meet him he succeeds in rescuing a little girl, promises his new wife to be home every night. One night his colleague Nate warns him of embezzlement within the Chicago Police Department, which he’s been getting intel from his informant. Roman is paged to meet with Nate and finds him dead with gunshot wounds. This turns Roman’s world upside down as all the signs point to him being responsible for Nate’s murder and in a moment of desperation, ends up storming into Internal Affairs Division, one thing leads to another and he ends up taking several hostages.


There was a time when the summer films would have action but also smarts involved in the storytelling. The Negotiator now may appear very very much follows the basic formula elements you’d come to expect from a thriller involving a cop figure (save someone, become a disgrace figure, become a hero once more) but rarely are you given performances all across the board that keep you invested until the credits roll. You’ve got the red herring bad cop in David Morse, doing the job of saving the hostages with extreme methods that make you question whether he’s part of the group that wants Roman dead or just intent on saving the hostages, Paul Giamatti as con-man Rudy providing the comic relief during the hostage proceedings and the late JT Walsh as Inspector Niebaum, a man that knows more than he is willing to share about Nate’s murder. The obvious two standout performers are the Samuel L Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Jackson carries the film on his shoulders in one of my favourite roles of his, playing a fine line of Roman’s desperation to seek the truth through good suspicions or paranoia. Spacey plays it straight in comparison, and the scenes they share together are intensified and interesting to watch as their facial expressions do more of the talking than the dialogue does. F. Gary Gray does a great job of keeping you invested throughout with some great shots involved.


FAVOURITE SCENE: Never say no in a hostage situation. A close second would be the eyes tell everything.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘When your friends betray you, sometimes the only people you can trust are strangers.’ – Lieutenant Danny Roman

DID YOU KNOW?: The film is dedicated to the late actor J.T. Walsh (Niebaum). This was one of 3 films of his to be released posthumously.

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