Netflixable? A Polish TV studio hostage thriller set in “Prime Time”

A young man with a gun breaks into a Warsaw TV studio on New Millennium Eve, figuring to deliver a message or manifesto to the masses in “Prime Time.” But that’s not the way things work out in this mildly-suspenseful Polish thriller, a film that manages to be derivative and different, although not in ways that make it worth recommending.

In this violent grab for attention, our troubled, unstable gunman (Bartosz Bielenia) hasn’t picked his time to shine with much care.

Money Monster, Network

It’s the end of a millennium, and New Year’s Eve. Everybody’s out partying. Everybody else is out of reach. The president will be speaking shortly. And even if the world-weary new producer (Malgorzata Hajewska) hadn’t cut off the live feed the moment young Sebastian burst in, he’d have a helluva time getting anyone’s attention.

Interviews with Polish youth reveals a wide range of plans to “leave” the country. The show Sebastian interrupts is a popular phone-in giveaway program. A “winner” keeps bleating “Hello? Hello? Did I win?” over the PA system as he seizes hostess/newscaster Mira (Magdalena Poplawska) and handcuffs her to the security guard he took hostage to get in the studio.

What’s his beef? What’s he determined to say? The control room takes on a late Soviet bloc nostalgia as the network security chief declares “Totally not my job, armed assault (in dubbed English, or original Polish with English subtitles). We check IDs,” that’s it.

Over the course of this only faintly-tense evening, Sebastian rants to “go live,” and Laura, the producer, resists those in the control room who suggest they acquiesce.

“And if he shoots Mira or the guard in front of the TV audience, or blows his brains out or screams ‘GAS the JEWS’ or does the Hitler salute?”

Nope. No nationwide audience for you, kid. And then SWAT arrives, two negotiators (Cezary Kosinski, Monika Frajczyk) take over, and the night wears on.

Director and co-writer Jakub Piatek might be trying to make points about cries for help and attention, about media’s toxic allure. But too little of that gets, and too much that’s familiar from other hostage tales, from “Dog Day Afternoon” to “Money Monster,” just plays as tired.

Even Sebastian’s chat with his un-summoned father (Juliusz Chrzastowski) going South, with the old man taunting the kid, feels like something we’ve seen before, because we have.

MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity

Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Magdalena Poplawska, Andrzej Klak and Malgorzata Hajewska

Credits: Directed by Jakub Piatek, script by Lukasz Czapski, Jakub Piatek. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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