Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One A Week Reviews #41: Held Hostage

A Lifetime TV thriller reviewed for DVDsnapshot...


What if the ultimate nightmare is just the beginning? After three masked gunmen break into her home, bank manager Michelle Estey (Julie Benz, TV's “Dexter”) and her young daughter are duct-taped with explosives and threatened with death unless Michelle cooperates in a daring bank heist. Terrified, Michelle agrees to their demands. She and her daughter are left unharmed, but Michelle soon realizes that, after the robbery, they are still very much in danger. Unguarded by police, shunned by her colleagues, she becomes a suspect in the crime and her shady past is exposed in what becomes the fight of her life in this tense thriller.

Held Hostage is a Lifetime TV movie “Based on a True Story” in the “woman in jeopardy” film tradition. The first half is a thriller focusing on Michelle Estey, a contented, independent single mother who's made a good life for herself and her daughter, Breea. A bank manager, she's targeted by a group of robbers who break into her home and terrorize her into holding up her own bank by strapping both her and her daughter with dynamite. It'd be a little too shrill and highly-pitched if not for the talented Julie Benz, mostly known for playing the vampire Darla on “Buffy” and “Angel” and Rita, the traumatized girlfriend on “Dexter.” She keeps the feverish thriller half of the film grounded in reality.

The second half takes a turn as the traumatized duo is pretty much left to their own devices by the police, exploited by the media, and left to recover from their ordeal. This is the side of life thrillers never show you; children terrified by every voice in the hallway and families waiting for criminals to get caught so they can move on with their lives. Estey winds up forced to reach out to a family she's separated from and must defend herself when accused by the criminals of being a co-conspirator in the crime. She winds up not also having to defend her past when it gets dredged up and held against her. Bruce McGill appears as a police detective who occasionally seems sympathetic to the viewer while he grows more and more hostile to Ms. Estey.

There's a little bit of flashy editing and cinematography, and the “thrills” are front-loaded on the first half of what seems to be two different films bolted together at the middle. The trial half certainly plays to the back row and manipulates the audience. Watch this mostly for the story of a maddeningly twice-victimized woman that would be overwrought and unbelievable if not for the compelling Benz.

Held Hostage is presented in Widescreen and in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. English and Spanish subtitles, along with a few trailers are the only options.

Held Hostage is a “Based on a True Story” Lifetime TV movie. An okay thriller that turns into a drama about crime victims being victimized again by “The System,” it's serviceable for a weeknight in, that's mostly a satisfying vehicle for the talented Julie Benz.


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