Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hostile Takeover

(George Mihalka, 1988)
For the first hour, this seems to be an reasonably honest and engaging piece of social commentary with something lacking dramatically. An early flashback implies that meek hostage-taker David Warner is weighted by childhood trauma, and his reactions imply that the toxic power-mongering of his office environment is acting as a trigger. There are indications that the filmmakers mean to extend this to a general critique of the corporate mentality; where Warner's actions imply the lack of an ongoing release valve for his daily traumas, his coworkers/hostages take refuge in regimentation (Jayne Eastwood), craven ambition (Kate Vernon) or greed (Michael Ironside, wonderfully cast against type as an ineffectual nebbish). The problem is that everything these people do or say seems to be keyed to their single character hook; there's a lack of complicating detail, so that the roles don't feel lived in. Andy Thompson's disorienting, discordant musical score adds texture though, and you bear with it out of curiosity over where it is all leading. And in the third act you find out, as things spiral straight down into an incomprehensible morass of showboating metaphor. From the moment the drunken 'trial' breaks out, all the characters suddenly stop operating as characters and instead become projections of a theme - a theme that the film is not even kind enough to articulate - and things become intensely mannered and obscure. Maybe they thought that undermining the police procedural with a T. S. Eliot read-in was acerbic or subversive, but the result is painfully twee, an early entry in the post-tax-shelter Canadian cinema of willfully obscure posturing.

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