This unusually taut thriller features James Garner playing against type as John Potter, a humorless FBI agent negotiating with an escaped convict, who, along with two cronies, has kidnapped a school bus full of deaf students and their teacher (Marlee Matlin). Stashed in an abandoned slaughterhouse, which is as much a character as the people in this HBO movie, the convicts and their prisoners sweat out Potter's refusal to give in to demands, despite the fact that he lost hostages--and the public's faith--his last time around. Garner gives his usual sterling performance, Kim Coates is an evil surprise as the ringleader of the convicts, and Matlin is fine, but underused, in a wordless performance. Lolita Davidovich comes in late in the game to tie up the loose ends and give the ending its punch. Director Daniel Petrie Jr. sets up the action during opening credits, an efficiency mirrored throughout the movie and capped off by an unexpected, but not out-of-the-blue ending. Donald Stewart (Missing) based his tightly written screenplay on Jeffrey Deaver's novel A Maiden's Grave.