Held Hostage

Held Hostage, which takes a home invasion siege as its leaping-off point, and charts the story of a single mother forced against her will to take part in a bank robbery, bills itself "a visceral portrait of what it takes to survive against insurmountable odds," but given that it's based on victims' advocate Michelle Renee's straightforwardly titled memoir Held Hostage: The True Story of a Mother and Daughter's Kidnapping, it's perhaps unsurprising that the film plays as little more a small screen movie-of-the-week. What Held Hostage does have most going for it, though, is a great, evocative DVD cover.

Michelle Estey (Dexter's Julie Benz) is a single mother and a bank manager, living with her young daughter Breea (Natasha Calis). One fateful night, masked gunmen break into their home and bind both of them with duct-tape. The next morning, after wiring them both with explosives, they give Michelle an unnerving ultimatum: cooperate in a bank heist, or she and Breea will die via remote control, and along with them the extra "e" in Breea's name. Michelle complies, and she and her daughter are left unharmed. Then the investigation begins, and with it new questions arise. Neither the police (mostly in the form of Bruce McGill's investigator) nor her colleagues completely accept Michelle's frightening story, and as details about her abusive, salacious and debt-riddled past come to light Michelle finds herself a suspect in what one apprehended culprit deems an inside job.

There isn't a lot of epic scope to this material, granted, but director Grant Harvey goes himself and the audience no favors with the tight, unimaginative manner in which he shoots the script, and ridiculously emotive, on-the-nose (and loud) music further sullies proceedings. This is all Lifetime-type pablum, given that we already know the perpetrators of the crime, and so when Held Hostage transitions into courtroom he said-she said shenanigans (which is more than half the movie), things bog down quickly. Benz, who's come a long way since Jawbreaker, does her best with the material, and it's nice to see her get a chance to play a crusading, front-and-center lead. There's just not nearly enough substance or nuance here to make it worthwhile for the average viewer.

Held Hostage comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, divided into a dozen chapter stops via a static menu screen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track, and optional English and Spanish subtitles. There are unfortunately no supplemental materials, which kind of undercuts the title's whole empowering-women/true-story vibe. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C- (Movie) D- (Disc)


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