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HOT SEAT (2022)

Release Date: 07/01/22 [VOD]

Genre: Thriller

Studio: Lionsgate


"An ex-hacker is forced to break into high-level banking institutions, another man must try to penetrate the booby trapped building to get the young man off the hot seat."


The thriller movie stereotypes often center around mundane atmospheres. The idea is that the audience will identify with the setting and become more invested. It's a challenge for a filmmaker to tell a story in a limited space and keep it interesting all the way through. 


Hot Seat, a new thriller by James Cullen Bressack, tries very hard to pull this off and even comes close a few times. 


Orlando (Kevin Dillon) is a retired hacker working a dead-end IT support job. He faces disconnection from his daughter and divorce papers from his wife and becomes coerced into the criminal lifestyle once again. The reason? He will die if he doesn't comply. His office chair becomes wired to a pressure-sensitive explosive strapped underneath. A prominent voice booms over the intercom and commands Orlando to break through firewalls and hack into systems and all that technical mumbo jumbo we've seen in a thousand films like this. Orlando cannot leave his post until the mission is complete, or the consequences will be dire. 


Simultaneously, we're introduced to Wallace Reid (Mel Gibson), a bomb squad police officer, and his partner Jackson (Eddie Steeple). The comparisons to the Lethal Weapon series are hard to avoid here, and it is fair to say that Wallace and Reid don't share the same chemistry as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh did. However, Wallace and Reid's partnership was still earnest and sincere here and I found the film more interesting with the pair on screen. The duo eventually gets the call to the office building that Orlando is trapped in when a different explosion goes off. 


Even with Gibson in a substantially more minor role, he can electrify the screen and even fires off a few zingers à la Riggs. However, carrying the bulk of the film is Dillon as Orlando. He does his best with minimal real estate to work around. Roughly 90% of the film is set in the office space wired to explode with Dillon punching the keyboard, talking hacker speak, and arguing with the big bad guy voice coming over the speakers. Altogether, he just isn't given much more to do. Aside from the main cops, the supporting cast is serviceable but nothing remarkable. That isn't a slight on anyone's acting chops; it's just that the script is more interested in reinventing the wheel that has already rolled out better products for decades. If you found movies like Speed, Phone Booth, and Buried to be engaging and exciting, I recommend returning and giving those another watch. 


The film has a small budget, and anyone could tell because of the small insular setting and dodgy special effects. That isn't necessarily a knock against Hot Seat; after all, necessity is the mother of invention. I take no issue with a low-budget film doing its best with the few available tools and resources. Hot Seat does its best to be thrilling, offering twists and turns to drive the plot forward at calculated times. And while roughly two-thirds of the film is mostly Dillon staring at a screen, the last act finally finds some action where you can feel the stakes at play. I only have two gripes with Hot Seat: first, there is nothing particularly new here. Every plot point, beat, pivot and arc have been explored before, better, and in much bigger projects. This film left me bored and frustrated, looking at my watch, etc. Secondly, the antagonist - meant to be a big reveal yet I could deduce immediately - has probably the lamest call to action. I wasn't expecting Shakespeare by any means, of course. But the villain's motivation in Hot Seat did not fit all the effort, time, and pay-off they put into making Orlando jump through all the hoops. 


If anyone is looking for a quick 90-minute simple (and sometimes effective) action thriller, Hot Seat could be a fun waste of time. But if you desire more convincing, excellent gems of excitement that will genuinely grip you, I recommend looking behind you; those better films have passed you by.

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