Picks and Pans Review: The Negotiator

updated 08/03/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/03/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, J.T. Walsh, Ron Rifkin, Regina Taylor

Casting is everything. The Negotiator, an edgy drama about two cops facing off against each other, boasts a potent starring combo in Jackson and Spacey, who keep it charged. Minus this duo, Negotiator would play like just another crime thriller. The two meet when Jackson, a maverick Chicago cop who excels at resolving tense hostage situations, is falsely fingered for murder. Desperate to clear his name, he takes hostages himself, and Spacey, another top hostage negotiator, gets the call. As directed by F. Gary Gray (Set It Off), the movie fails to hook viewers deeply either emotionally or intellectually. But getting to watch an angry Jackson and cerebral Spacey warily circle each other at least keeps it interesting. (R)

Bottom Line: Decent performances can't overcome pro forma plot

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