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Apart from a few wisecracks Eddie Murphy plays it straight, as a “hostage negotiator” working for the San Francisco police force in a loud and often stupid action thriller in which director Thomas Carter (Swing Kids) has every screaming psycho killer and every hysterical hostage behaving identically. Lots of car crashes, one superb explosion, and the fleeting charms of Carmen Ejogo (Absolute Beginners) hardly compensate for the overall unpleasantness, in which sadism is taken for granted and no character is allowed to develop. The idiotic script is by Randy Feldman. Michael Rapaport plays Murphy's partner; the most prominent leering villain—who actually chains the heroine to a buzz saw in the final showdown—is Michael Wincott.

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