Carol Burnett and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, do not play a mother and daughter in "Hostage" (Channels 2 and 8 at 9 p.m. Sunday). They play a hostage and kidnaper, respectively.
Their characters develop feelings for each other that resemble those of a mother and daughter, but the circumstances of their meeting provide this movie with a surprisingly hard shell.
Yes, there is a core of sentiment underneath that shell. Burnett's Martha is a wealthy widow who hasn't paid enough attention to her own grown daughter. Hamilton's Bonnie Lee is a fugitive from prison who writes to her mother every day but never gets a response.
But this is a thriller, not a weepie. Bonnie Lee's abusive father (Leon Russom) has sworn vengeance on her for trying to kill him in the incident that sent her to prison. When she makes her break, he pursues Bonnie Lee and her hostage, Martha.
And he is one spectacularly capable pursuer. This evil man finds his prey when the police can't, and he displays an unbelievable knack for survival. His almost mythic status is a bit excessive, as if writer Stephen Foreman were deliberately trying to court the action audience as well as the mother-daughter audience.
Still, as thrillers go, "Hostage" is psychologically perceptive, and director Peter Levin keeps it moving at a gripping pace. Burnett is as rigorously controlled as she was in "Friendly Fire," and Hamilton is so authentically tough and scrappy that she wipes out any considerations of nepotism. Priscilla Caroline Smith makes a brief but vivid appearance as Bonnie Lee's mom.