Wednesday, July 29, 2015

1PanelReview U.S. Marshals

The third installment in what people consider a "The Fugitive" trilogy comprised of Andrew Davis' own cult classic 1993 film The Fugitive, its Keanu Reeves-starring 1996 follow-up Chain Reaction and the 1998 U.S. Marshals swapping Wesley Snipes for Harrison Ford.

They basically made three times the same movie. Third time's the charm, right?

What it is: U.S. Marshals

Which is: An action/thriller film
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Year: 1998

This time the film was actually directed by Star Trek: Nemesis director Stuart Baird instead of Andrew Davis, who was a pretty competent replacement if you ask me since he's a frequent collaborator of Richard Donner. U.S. Marshals sees the return of a lot of actors who portrayed cops and FBI agents in both previous films reprise their roles from The Fugitive. It sees the return of Tommy Lee Jones and stars Wesley Snipes, a younger Robert Downey Jr., Joe Pantoliano, Kate Nelligan, Irène Jacob, Daniel Roebuck, Tom Wood and LaTanya Richardson.

The story sees this guy played by Wesley Snipes arrested for weapons position in Chicago at first. Upon checking his fingerprints he is identified as a fugitive on the run from the FBI, wanted for homicide. Who do they call back for help? Noneother than Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) of course! Snipes is quickly put into custody and sent aboard a prisoner escort plane. During the flight someone attempts to kill him, the plane crashes, Wesley Snipes tries to help people out... only to be able to escape the crash city when nobody's looking! And then, just like that, the chase is on! Our protagonist finds himself in New York City under a fake id, trying to clear his name and find the truth. Tommy Lee Jones knows sometimes the truth is not what it appears to be, and decides to believe his new fugitive...
What's Good about it: U.S. Marshals is a fairly typical 1990s action film, full of chase scenes, thrills and shootouts.
Unlike Chain Reaction which only featured a lot of similar elements and actors, U.S. Marshals is actually an official sequel to the 1993 film. Which means the return of a lot of characters from The Fugitive (Chain Reaction shared a lot of the same cast, but the characters had different names if similar roles). 
This also means the return of everyone's favorite fugitive-chasing U.S. Marshal, deputy Samuel Gerard/Tommy Lee Jones! Sure, we don't get Harrison Ford (but then, again, why would we? His name was cleared at the end of the film!), but Wesley Snipes does make a fun great new fugitive. A bit more proactive and believable in the role than Keanu did in Chain Reaction.
Of course, the big twist of this entire film is that Snipes is more than the simple fugitive he appears to be at first.
The film tries to redo The Fugitive and surpass it. We do get a big confession in a high spot while the marshal's aiming his gun at him, a train sequence again, and a big plane crash right at the start of the film. 
The film has a pretty frantic pacing and pretty good acting from the whole cast.
The unexpected small part comes from Robert Downey Jr.'s kind of fun guy we're never too sure about his allegiance. Is he one of the good guys or part of the conspiracy, hmmm? Even though Downey Jr. himself has went on record calling U.S. Marshals one of the worst action films ever made, in my eyes he's unjustly looking harshly at his earlier work. In fact his character was pretty fun and actually did good in the role.
Finally, one of the film's better ideas - specially since the formula was starting to get stale back then (they had been countless Fugitive clones at the time) - was putting a lot more emphasis on the perspective of the US Marshals, as the title implies. Which is great, since Tommy Lee Jones' always fun to watch.

What's Bad about it: U.S. Marshals never really achieve the same sense of urgency and thrills the original The Fugitive did. Only counting these original films this was already the third time a fugitive escaped from the FBI across the states in only a few shorts years. 
And it gets even more formulaic, particularly since we kinda know our new fugitive is not quite innocent right from the start. And while the film should focus on the U.S. Marshals to live the audience in doubt, we end up keeping tabs as much time with our new fugitive. So it never truly works as good as it could.
Wesley Snipes is clearly no Richard Kimble who we knew was innocent right from the start of The Fugitive. Here we don't really get to know how protagonist or even care about him much.
The main issue with the film is that it's just too long for such a simple plot. The film simply loses momentum near its 2-plus hours run as the finale never seem to come. Right when you think it's about to end, there's another exchange, or pursuit, or final throw-down.
Jerry Goldsmith's music here is serviceable, at best. Nothing to write home about really.

Overall: U.S. Marshals is a fairly standard copy-pasted sequel. Going through the motions of its predecessor(s). While it's a fun action film and the cast is pretty decent, the film never accomplishes much past what previous films already did.

No wonder at the time it mostly received mixed reviews since it was basically a retreat from the past two films, not counting the countless knock offs we were getting back then. Let me add Stuart Baird is also no Andrew Davis.

The overall film and story is kind of lazy, it still is action packed and plenty of fun. Give It A Look if you like these type of 90s action films.

Despite being billed as a follow-up to The Fugitive, it's basically a remake with a twist. It's the same basic storyline and identical structure. With the same type of twists and tension going through the same beats during the story. Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes are really the only saving graces that make the film fun. It's fun to catch the same background police officers and deputy agents cast in the same roles from the previous two films The Fugitive and Chain Reaction.

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