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File:Negotiator1 5014.jpg

 "When your friends betray you, sometimes the only people you can trust are strangers."

-- Lt. Danny Roman

The Negotiator is a 1998 film starring Samuel L. Jackson as Danny Roman, a Chicago hostage negotiator framed for the murder of his partner, Nate. Nate was murdered when he uncovered serious corruption within their unit. Not knowing who he can trust, Danny turns to taking hostages to find the truth about Nate's murder. Unable to trust his friends, he calls upon a stranger, and fellow negotiator, Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) to prove his innocence.

The film was directed by Felix Gary Gray, previously known for Friday (1995) and Set It Off (1996). It was not a box office hit, earning about 44,547,681 dollars in the United States market. It was only the 47th most successful film of its years. However, it gained mostly positive reviews and earned both Gray and Jackson a number of awards.


Provides examples of:

  • Air Vent Passageway: The SWAT team uses small vents for running fiber-optic cameras and larger vents for team members. When the title character barricades himself into an office, one of the precautions he takes is to close off the vents as best he can with available materials.
    • Later played straight in his attempt to escape the office building.
  • Batman Cold Open
  • Batman Gambit: Done multiple times by Roman, and how they eventually uncover the mastermind setting him up.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Frost tries to shoot himself, only to be stopped by Beck
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Sabian gets the murderer to confess by blackmailing him with the nonexistent evidence.
  • Butt Monkey: Farley basically exists for no other reason than to get utterly humiliated by Danny. It's a CMoF, though.
  • Big Bad: Frost is the leader of the corrupt cops.
  • Clear My Name: This is Danny’s goal.
  • Closed Door Rapport: The movie milks this for all it's worth—both Danny Roman and Chris Sabian are introduced doing this. Roman is talking with a gunman. Sabian is talking with his wife.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: We are first introduced to Kevin Spacey's character as he is failing to persuade his wife to come out of the bedroom in which she has locked herself. Summed up succinctly with this line:

 Sabian: I once talked a guy out of blowing up the Sears Tower but I can't talk my wife out of the bedroom or my kid off the phone.

  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Danny makes the perfect hostage taker, as he knows every tactic the police will use and brazenly runs circles around the Chicago PD.
  • Dirty Cop: A group of these were responsible for Nate’s death and framing Danny.
  • Engineered Public Confession: How Danny finally gets Frost.
  • Face Heel Turn:
    • Sanian fakes one to take down Frost.
    • Played straight by Niebaum, who joined Frost and gave up Nate after being bribed. Frost also had one before the film, along with his cronies
  • Hero Antagonist: Primarily Sabian who is virtually the Deuteragonist of the film, but really the entire team trying to take Roman down qualify because they really do believe that he's a Dirty Cop who murdered his own partner. Well... aside from Frost, who framed him for it, of course.
  • Insistent Terminology: Maggie is Niebaum's assistant, not secretary. Backfires on her when Danny realizes she might have more information than he initially suspects.
  • Jerkass: Adam Beck, who has it out for Danny even before the hostage-taking and refuses to even entertain the idea Danny is innocent. Subcpverted when he turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: between the FBI and Chicago PD, as the building is a federal one and the FBI allow them jurisdiction until their screw ups compel them to take over the situation.
  • Living Lie Detector: Danny gives an IAB officer he's trying to interrogate a crash course in how "real cops" pick apart liars.
  • Mood Whiplash: The don't say no phone scene.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Played with in-universe. Danny wants everyone to think he's shot one of the officers who attempted the first raid, thus demonstrating that he is to be taken seriously. But eventually reveals it was staged.
  • No Indoor Voice: It is a movie with Sam Jackson, so we get some more screaming gems such as:
    • YOU WANT MY BLOOD! TAKE MY BLOOD!
    • YOU CAN'T TALK ME DOWN!
    • I *AM* TALKING! NOW DID YOU OR DID YOU *NOT* EVER DRESS UP LIKE A SCHOOLGIRL AND GET YA ASS SPANKED?!
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: Danny invokes this trope when he fakes shooting one of the hostages.
  • Red Herring: Beck seems like an easy pick for the person who is setting up Danny; he is a hardass, no-bull character who wants to immediately take out Roman with a tactical squad, and is played by David Morse, who has made a living playing villainous roles. But he's not. He's only trying to take down Roman because he believes he's the culprit, and he not only arrests Frost, but also keeps him from committing suicide to escape his fate.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Though Danny's not a human shield, Sabian shoots him in front of the villain, then says he wants in on Frost's cut. This was the plan to goad Frost into an Engineered Public Confession.
    • A more literal interpretation of the Trope title happens when the conspirators silence Niebaum.
  • Stockholm Syndrome/Lima Syndrome - Justified; the hostages come over to his side once they realize he's being set up, and he's apologetic about having to put them through it all to clear his name.
  • Sympathetic Criminal
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers show that Sabian eventually sides with Danny.
  • The Windy City
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance
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