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Hostage High

In many ways your standard made-for-TV nail-biter, Hostage High actually has a little more to offer than its sensational DVD packaging would lead you to believe. Despite the faces of a sexy young cast (Rick Schroeder and Freddie Prinze Jr. among them) and two lurid slogans ("School's Out… FOREVER!" and "Director's Uncut Version") stretched across its explosion-depicting keep case, this 1997 docudrama is surprisingly tasteful, and even tense. Schroeder stars as a troubled flunky-turned-lone-gunman who deals with his failures by shooting up his former high school and holding several students hostage, provoking a tense standoff with the law. Practically reprising his role in the the 1983 comedy Night Shift, Henry Winkler costars as a timid, teased police officer who "surprisingly" excels under pressure. Hostage High is unremarkable and entirely predictable, except for its restraint. There's a refreshing lack of excess melodrama — director Michael Watkins allowing the situation and characters to dictate the familiar drama — the pacing is tight, and all of the key performances are effectively low-key. Yes, even Prinze, Jr., is sort of — well — good. Or at least well used. It's interesting to note that when Hostage High, claiming to have been based on a true story, aired on television in March 1997, it preceded (or predicted?) the rash of real-life incidents it now sometimes chillingly evokes. Artisan's DVD presents the film in a full-frame transfer (1.33:1) with both DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio mixes. Includes a commentary with Winkler and producer Steve Natt. Trailer (for home video release), keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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