Denis Leary plays an unfortunate cat burglar, who is abandonded by his partner in the middle of a heist, and is forced to take an irritating Connecticut couple (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hostage. He soon finds that he took more than he bargained for when the couple’s blackmailing son and despicable in-laws step into the picture. Before long they’re driving him nuts with their petty bickering and family problems. The only way for him to survive is to be their referee and resolve their differences, before he can be nabbed by the police. IMDb
Though he was related to Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, director Ted Demme eschewed any hint of nepotism to gain success in Hollywood through years of hard work. Starting as a production assistant, Demme worked his way up to producer before creating the seminal show “Yo! MTV Raps” (MTV, 1988-1995), which helped introduce hip-hop to the mainstream masses. From there, he made his debut as a feature director with old friend Denis Leary in the lead for the hailed, but underappreciated comedy “The Ref” (1994). Demme earned more critical praise for the otherwise ignored “Beautiful Girls” (1996) before taking turn toward more dramatic fare with the impressive “Monument Ave.” (1998). He next won an Emmy Award as one of the producers on “A Lesson Before Dying” (HBO, 1999) while taking the directing reigns for the rather misguided comedy “Life” (1999), starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Demme received some criticism for “Blow” (2001), his sympathetic take on real-life cocaine… read more
For one, this film is remembered as "The Ref" and not "Hostile Hostages" (a simply awful title), and two, this is one of the great nontraditional Christmas films (perhaps only later surpassed by Bad Santa). Surprisingly well written foul-mouthed black comedy soaked in Christmas spirit will leave any Grinch smiling. A funny, cynical look at family dynamics around the holidays with great performances by all.