Director Jakub Piatek chooses to take the conventional approach in his hostage thriller “Prime Time,” a formulaic and disappointing effort that presents nothing unique nor exciting. Set on New Year’s Eve 1999, the film tells the story of disturbed young man Sebastian (Bartosz Bielenia), who hijacks a television studio and takes a famous game show host (Magdalena Poplawska) and a security guard hostage. Much like its lead character, the film doesn’t seem have a plan of where it wants to go or how it wants to get there.
Bielenia is well-cast as the mentally unbalanced gunman, turning in a performance that’s distressing and sad. When it’s revealed that Sebastian has been facing bullying and ridicule at the hands of his own father, the anger and fear that I felt towards the character turned to pity. That’s not enough of a driving motivation for the character, however, and that there is no eventual reveal as to the reason Sebastian did what he did is a letdown. He has a message he wants to deliver, but we never learn what it is or to whom it is directed.
Other elements took me completely out of the film as well, including the stupid ways the characters react to the hostage situation. The police are incompetent, and there are so many things they could do to diffuse the situation and end it quickly, but they don’t. It’s ridiculous some of the actions (and non-actions) the characters take here.
The extremely slow story eventually picks up, but only in the film’s last half hour, which makes it far too late for “Prime Time” to salvage all that came before.
By: Louisa Moore