F. Gary Gray
Samuel L. Jackson
And they’re all going to sit there until they figure out what’s going on, because Samuel L. Jackson is NOT going to jail today!
And that’s exactly what THE NEGOTIATOR is—a cool concept with great cast executed nicely. Both Jackson and Spacey live up to the promise of their pairing. Neither are going to win any awards for Danny Roman or Chris Sabian, but the back and forth banter and psychological gameplay between the two makes it a fun, compelling watch. And luckily they’re backed up with an impressive line up of supporting actors, including David Morse, Paul Giamatti, “Alias” vet Ron Rifkin and the late JT Walsh. Each of them play to their strengths (Morse=no nonsense badass, Giamatti=slimy, etc.) and fill out a roster of characters that stand up to the main powerhouse actors.
Director F. Gary Gray, who would go on to more action thrillers with THE ITALIAN JOB and LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, does a fine job making a tight and tense film. (If you had told me that this was from the director of FRIDAY, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you.) It’s a fairly long flick at well over 2 hours (it’s almost 45 minutes in before Spacey even shows up), but Gray keeps the pace going while the actors elevate things to make sure no scene feels like excess fat. I wouldn’t call THE NEGOTIATOR a classic of the genre or something that’s going to blow your socks off, but it’s an entertaining and highly watchable film.
The 11th Hour (6:51): Listen to stories from a real life crisis negotiator. Sadly his most interesting one is about peeing with a suicidal jumper. (No joke.)
On Location (16:27): F. Gary Gray and other crew members talk about why they chose to film on location in Chicago and the Donnelly Building specifically. They literally talk about a building for about 5 minutes.
Extra Tidbit: Originally, Kevin Spacey was supposed to play Sam Jackson’s part, while none other than Sylvester Stallone was originally cast as Chris Sabian.