The Negotiator

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This article is about the film. For the unrelated novel, see The Negotiator (novel).
The Negotiator
Theatrical release poster
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Produced by David Hoberman
Arnon Milchan
Written by James DeMonaco
Kevin Fox
Starring Samuel L. Jackson
Kevin Spacey
David Morse
Ron Rifkin
John Spencer
J.T. Walsh
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Russell Carpenter
Edited by Christian Wagner
Regency Enterprises
Mandeville Films
New Regency
Monarchy Enterprises
Taurus Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 29, 1998 (1998-07-29)
Running time 140 minutes
Country Germany
United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office Domestic:

The Negotiator is a 1998 action thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. It takes place in Chicago and was released on July 29, 1998. The original music score was composed by Graeme Revell.


Lieutenant Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson), a top Chicago Police Department hostage negotiator, is approached by colleague Nathan Roenick (Paul Guilfoyle) who warns him that large sums of money are being embezzled from the department's disability fund, for which Roman is a board member, and members of their own unit are involved. Roenick claims to have an informant whom he refuses to name. When Roman goes to meet with him again he finds Roenick murdered seconds before other police arrive, pinning Roman as the prime suspect.

Things only get worse for Roman when Internal Affairs investigator Niebaum (J.T. Walsh), whom Roenick suspected of involvement in the embezzlement, is assigned to investigate the murder. He discovers that Roenick was killed with a gun from a case Roman had worked. He and other investigators search Roman's house the following morning and claim to have found papers for an offshore bank account with a deposit equal to one of the amounts of money embezzled. After this, hardly anyone believes Roman's protests of innocence. Facing the possibility of serious charges within a day, Roman storms into Niebaum's office and questions Niebaum about any involvement with the fund or setting Roman up. When Niebaum refuses to answer, Roman takes Niebaum, his administrative assistant Maggie (Siobhan Fallon), police commander Grant Frost (Ron Rifkin), and two-bit con man Rudy Timmons (Paul Giamatti) as hostages.

With the building evacuated and placed under siege by police (including Roman's unit) and the FBI, Roman issues his conditions, which include finding Roenick's informant and summoning police Lt. Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey), another top negotiator. Roman wants Sabian because he is from another side of the city and therefore unconnected to the pension fund matter, has a reputation for negotiating as long as possible before using force, and should be one of the few people Roman can trust. Despite temporarily putting Sabian in charge after an attempted assault on Roman, the police doubt Sabian's methods.

While Sabian tries to come up with a solution, Timmons and Maggie help Roman access Niebaum's computer; he discovers recordings of bugs and wiretaps, including his last conversation with Roenick. He discovers that Roenick himself was the actual informant and had passed his evidence on to the IAD. Niebaum finally admits that he took bribes from the guilty parties to cover up their crimes, and he implicates many of Roman's squad mates in the conspiracy but does not know who the ringleader is. But the conspirators have volunteered to enter the building and hide above Niebaum's office in case Roman starts shooting; now they open fire and kill Niebaum before he can reveal where he has hidden corroborating evidence.

Believing that Sabian and the police have lost control of the situation, especially after Sabian bluffs Roman and the police into thinking an unrelated man was the informant, the FBI relieve Sabian and order a full breach. Sabian now believes Roman and gives him a chance to prove his innocence, helping him to sneak out of the building during the FBI SWAT assault by wearing a confiscated police uniform while the police save the hostages. Roman and Sabien proceed to Niebaum's house, but cannot find the evidence there. Then they are confronted by Frost and three other members of Roman's squad, who reveal themselves as the embezzlers and the killers of Roenick and Niebaum.

In front of Frost, Sabian suddenly shoots Roman and offers to destroy the evidence Roman has uncovered in return for "a piece of the pie" from Frost. Frost agrees and effectively makes a full admission to his crimes, but when he leaves the house, he finds the whole area surrounded by police. Roman had feigned death and Frost's admission of guilt was broadcast over the police radio, who attempts to kill himself but is disarmed and arrested. As Roman is loaded into an ambulance, Sabian gives him back his badge.


Production notes[edit]

The Negotiator was dedicated to J.T. Walsh, who died several months before the film's release.

The building used for the IAD office is 77 West Wacker Drive, the headquarters of United Airlines.

When it was made, The Negotiator's $50 million budget was the highest ever given to an African-American director.[2]

Factual basis[edit]

This film is loosely based on the pension fund scandal in the St. Louis Police Department in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[3]


Critical response[edit]

The film received a generally positive critical response and a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Emanuel Levy of Variety wrote: "Teaming for the first time Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, arguably the two best actors of their generation, in perfectly fitting roles is a shrewd move and the best element of this fact-inspired but overwrought thriller."


  1. ^ "The Negotiator Box Office". Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Police Official Seized As Hostage in Missouri. New York Times (1988-09-04). Retrieved on 2013-11-17.

External links[edit]