U.S. Marshals (1998)

reviewed by
John Ulmer


U.S. MARSHALS (THE FUGITIVE II)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
REVIEW BY JOHN ULMER

There was a certain intensity and solidness in 1993's "The Fugitive" that made it just about the most memorable chase film of all time -- and "U.S. Marshals" is missing that raw intensity. It's too slow-moving in the beginning, and when it does pick up speed it seems dreary and pretty corny, actually. Not to say it's a bad film -- "The Hunted" and such films were much worse -- but in light of how excellent the first film was, this one deals a major blow.

Tommy Lee Jones is back as Marshal Sam Gerard. Dressed in a chicken suit he raids the apartment of a criminal and gets on a plane to transport him and the baddie to Missouri. There's another man on that plane named Mark (Wesley Snipes), who has been accused of a crime he hasn't committed. A convict tries to assassinate Mark onboard, causing the plane to go through some unfortunate motions and crash in a swamp land. Mark escapes from the authorities, however, and flees into the swamp lands. Jones begins the chase to hunt his felon down. "We've got a fugitive," he barks, probably posing for the TV ads.

Robert Downey, Jr. joins the chase along with Cosmo (Joe Pantoliano) and Gerard's old team. This film centers more on Gerard's Marshals than the criminal chase element, which is probably why it's called "U.S. Marshals" and not "The Fugitive II." The whole Wesley Snipes scenario serves to be a silly excuse to see Sam running about with his team.

They chase, jump, fight, chase, leap on a train, chase some more, fight some more, kill, kill a bit more, and so on and so forth. "The Fugitive" was a chase film, a thriller, a mystery, an intense character study between two men who find they may have more in common than they think. Harrison Ford's Richard Kimble was a man we could sympathize with just as much as Tommy Lee Jones' Sam Gerard -- a key element to the film. It showed us both sides of the chase. This is just a routine chase film for the most part -- with the occasional breathtaking stunt -- but they're not nearly as breathtaking as those in the predecessor.

The movie kills off a considerably important main character during its course, something you aren't really expecting. Yes, it was a pretty big surprise, given the fact that it is someone from the first film who you are expecting to get killed off -- but when it happened it felt more like a cheap surprise -- one made by the director as to wow us and make us take the film more seriously. I call this a cheap thrill.

And the final problem I will address is Wesley Snipes' convicted good guy. We're supposed to believe he's a good guy, to genuinely root for him, but his character is not nearly as empathizable as he should be. Harrison Ford created a man we truly cared for -- a man who had really gotten the raw end of the deal. He threatened to harm people a few times but never harmed anyone. In fact, he even saved a little boy in a hospital while being chased after by the cops. Wesley Snipes' character Mark is a selfish character who will do anything to survive -- even if it means holding a knife to a woman's throat and telling her husband to drive him across a bridge and lie to police troopers, or even if he were to fire a gun at the U.S. Marshals on his tail. Sam later says, "If he wanted to kill me, he wouldn't have aimed for my chest protector." It doesn't matter -- he still shot the guy and nearly shot another Marshal so he could escape. It made me wonder what Harrison Ford's character would have done given the circumstance. But then again, Richard Kimble wouldn't have been stupid enough to flee into deep marsh land where he could be easily trapped, either.

- John Ulmer
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X-RT-RatingText: 2.5/5

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