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Case Number 00051

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The Negotiator

Warner Bros. // 1998 // 140 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // July 1st, 1999

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of The Negotiator (Blu-Ray), published November 10th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

He frees hostages for a living. Now he's taking hostages to survive.

Opening Statement

Warner Bros. rolls out a nice DVD for The Negotiator, a film that, if nothing else, showcases the extraordinary acting abilities of both Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey.

The Evidence

If you were anywhere near a television last summer you probably saw at least one trailer for The Negotiator. If you saw an ad for The Negotiator you probably know most of the storyline for the film. For the uninitiated, The Negotiator is the story of Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson), a hostage negotiator, who is framed for embezzlement and murder when he learns of corruption inside his own police precinct. Instead of going to trial, Roman takes justice into his own hands and takes his Internal Affairs office hostage in the hope of uncovering the corruption inside the police department and, by doing so, clearing his own name.

Since Roman believes his own precinct to be heavily corrupted he will not negotiate with anyone except for Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), another well-known hostage negotiator from another Chicago precinct. Once Sabian is on the scene he and Roman go head-to-head with their negotiating techniques. In the midst of this, Roman attempts to get to the truth while fending off fellow officers who are intent on preventing Roman from exposing the truth about their precinct.

As for the DVD, the audio and video transfer on this disc are both top notch. The video is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, containing little, if any, artifacting and noise. The image is nice and clean thanks to being spread over the discs two layers. The 5.1 audio track is equally impressive which truly shines during some of the action sequences in The Negotiator. While the film is mostly dialogue, there are some big gun fights, and the audio really kicks in during these scenes. Also showing off the subwoofer as well as surround sound are the sequences involving helicopters that attempt to infiltrate Roman's hostage den.

Being part of Warner Bros. Premiere Collection, The Negotiator DVD contains some nice extra content. Most notable is a short documentary called "The 11th Hour" in which a real hostage negotiator shares some of his experiences in his line of work. Also included on the disc is a featurette about shooting the film on location (entitled "On Location…") as well as extensive production notes on the cast and crew as well as the story behind the film. Finally, there are five theatrical trailers for the film for you to view and enjoy.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

My first complaint comes from the film itself. I'm certain that The Negotiator was nothing more than a film used to showcase the talents of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Especially towards the middle of the film, the storyline became secondary to the verbal sparring between Spacey and Jackson. This is still entertaining but damages the film by creating a weaker plot and making the film less believable. In the film, Danny Roman takes hostages with the intent of attempting to uncover corruption and prove his innocence, but this shortly becomes secondary to gun fighting and talking on the phone to Chris Sabian. Roman, so willing to get to the truth shortly becomes sidetracked and seems more intent on squaring off with Sabian than actually proving his innocence.

The extra content is good, especially when the disc is not offered at a premium price, however somewhat lacking in comparison to other "Premiere Collection" titles from Warner Bros., like Lethal Weapon 4. A commentary track would have really benefited this film, especially if it came from Spacey and Jackson (which I'm sure would be next to impossible to produce). The "11th Hour" featurette ran way too short (five minutes) while the "On Location…" featurette ran excruciatingly long (17 minutes). You get more for your money, but a little less than you'd expect from a Premiere Collection title.

Closing Statement

The Negotiator is a good film that treats the viewer to outstanding performances from two of the best actors alive today. Warner Bros. put some nice effort into this DVD but comes up just short on their extra content side.

The Verdict

Acquitted on all counts, but the featurette producers will be sentenced for a return trip to film school.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 93
Audio: 92
Extras: 75
Acting: 95
Story: 72
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• English
• French
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Documentary: The 11th Hour: Stories From Real Negotiators
• Behind-the-Scenes Documentary
• Production Notes
• Five Theatrical Trailers


• IMDb

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