One thing "The Negotiator" could have used is a way to explain the conspiracy plot that fuels the film.

This uneven, but at-times exciting thriller, based on some real-life events, suffers from ridiculously convoluted plotting and bad scripting. That's a real pity because it has such a talented cast, including actors Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey.

Jackson stars as Danny Roman, a hostage negotiator for the Chicago Police Department, who is forced to become a hostage taker when he is framed for the murder of his partner, as well as embezzlement of police funds.

Desperate to discover who framed him before he is captured or killed, Danny convinces his former colleagues to bring in a mediator, Chris Sabian (Spacey), who serves as the hostage negotiator for another precinct. Chris is initially leery about Danny claims at first but eventually becomes convinced that Danny is telling the truth and tries to defuse this potential powderkeg.

Meanwhile, Danny has to fight off attempts on his life by SWAT team members and tries to get crucial information out internal affairs investigator Niebaum (late character actor J.T. Walsh) before time runs out.

Unfortunately, the plot takes so many twists and turns that it may lose some viewers, and the most compelling of them is already revealed in the TV spots.

To their credit, though, Jackson and Spacey both try to transcend the material — the former bringing some much-needed intensity and energy. And director F. Gary Gray ("Set it Off") makes some otherwise preposterous situations very tense.

"The Negotiator" is rated R for violent gunplay and fistfighting, profanity, gore and some vulgar references and jokes.