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HOSTAGE (1983) gets 6/10 Under his thumb


Directed by Frank Shields

Starring Kerry Mack, Ralph Schicha

6/10

This month sees a re-release of the newly restored version of little seen 1983 Australian thriller, Hostage. Detailing the ways a man takes control of his new wife as he brings his family to Germany, Hostage takes plenty of leaps trying to make this grim true story feel believable, given the unusual antagonist. His victim remains the heart of the film, as her pains and her susceptibility make up an illuminating portrait.

Watching the development of this relationship between Christine (Kerry Mack) and Walter (Ralph Schicha) is to be an observer to its constant descent. As Walter’s shy suaveness and tender appeal give way bit by bit to reveal a domineering partner who puts Christine under his control, he starts determining each of her decisions. She’s completely cornered and in a hopeless position where she can hardly fight back or escape, despite her efforts.

There are plenty of aspects of Walter’s life that aren’t elaborated on. In a very sudden twist, just after the move to Germany, Walter reveals to his new wife that’s he’s a Neo-Nazi who’s deeply in the movement – she doesn’t seem to consider this to be a particularly big red flag. He then brings her along to bank-robbing sessions because, well, it’s one way for this Neo-Nazi to make some easy money. We see how he’s able to pressure Christine to reluctantly go along with this, but Walter is more frustratingly mysterious. Hostage doesn’t get too much under his skin, he just seems to be possessive of Christine because he loves her, and that’s it.

Although the writing and pacing of how these true-life characters could have been portrayed better, at least the performances really bring them to life. Kerry brings frustration and despair to Christine, that can evidently be seen bringing her to breaking point. Ralph also has a dynamic range with Walter, showing both his sensitivity and his ruthlessness. This makes it believable that he’s capable of both, though it’s a shame the script he’s working from doesn’t develop this character into what he should be.

With all this intense drama ending in a sequence that likely inspired 1989’s Dead Calm (a superior thriller about a man controlling a woman), Hostage is somewhat a product of its time, though it thankfully feels more like a genuine drama than another ozploitation film. But a story as strong as this could’ve still benefited from some more clarification into the pursuit of the characters – Christine works well as she pushes against her passivity, though there’s surely more to her abusive boyfriend that this film lets on.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

Hostage is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD through Umbrella Entertainment.

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