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(1998) (Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: A U.S. Marshal tracks down a fugitive who tries to clear his name of the crimes of which he's been accused.
Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard (TOMMY LEE JONES) needs a vacation, or at least that's what his boss, Walsh (KATE NELLIGAN) tells him. Before he can go, however, he must escort a plane carrying a group of prisoners that includes Mark Sheridan (WESLEY SNIPES). Although he claims he's an innocent man, Sheridan is actually a covert government agent who's been framed in an operation that ended with him killing two other agents in self-defense.

When the plane crashes and begins to sink in a river, Sheridan escapes and Gerard finds himself hunting another fugitive. With his faithful and dedicated team of Cosmo Renfro (JOE PANTOLIANO), Biggs (DANIEL ROEBUCK), Newman (TOM WOOD) and Cooper (LATANYA RICHARDSON), Gerard sets into motion his trademark obsessive search, and his team is soon hot on Sheridan's trail. He's not happy, though, when they're joined by John Royce (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.), a mysterious government agent assigned to their case.

They eventually find Sheridan's girlfriend, Marie (IRENE JACOB), who doesn't know the truth, but knows that her boyfriend isn't the cold-blooded killer he's been made out to be. She then leads them to New York where she meets Sheridan. There, Gerard and his team learn that Chen (MICHAEL PAUL CHAN), a Chinese intelligence operative, is also involved in a threat to national security issues and wants Sheridan dead. As Sheridan does what he can to clear his name, he must find Chen, as well as avoid Gerard and his team who continually get closer to catching him.

If they liked the original 1993 film, "The Fugitive," or are fans of anyone in the cast, they just might.
For some scenes of violence and brief language.
  • TOMMY LEE JONES plays a seriously grim, and often callous Marshal who is very good at tracking down fugitives.
  • WESLEY SNIPES plays a government agent who killed two people in self-defense and is sent to prison. After managing to escape, he does threaten several people along the way while trying to clear his name.
  • ROBERT DOWNEY JR. plays a mysterious government agent assigned to Gerard's team, and who isn't entirely trustworthy as they later find out.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Ah, the sequel, the inevitable follow up to any given popular film. Usually propelled by financial goals instead of ones dealing with creativity -- unless part of a series like the Star Wars films -- the sequel usually ends up inferior to the original. That's mostly due to the impetus of making money based on the memory of the first film instead of creating a uniquely compelling story, but also because the filmmakers often just retool elements and set pieces from the original and force feed them to us in the follow up.

    Which brings us to "U.S. Marshals," the sequel to 1993's brilliant "The Fugitive," itself based on the popular 1960's TV show. Nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor), the film was masterfully written and crafted, contained great performances from Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, and was a self-contained story with a clear beginning, middle and end.

    Without having Ford framed for another crime and then becoming a fugitive once again, you may wonder how this is a sequel. Well, Warner Brothers wants you to know that this is more of a "spin-off" than an exact sequel. They can put whatever spin they want on the description, but all the filmmakers have done is replace Ford with Wesley Snipes, accuse him of a crime, and set a manhunt/chase into motion once again. What they didn't do is make as good a film as the first, which shouldn't surprise too many moviegoers.

    Being a sequel, many of the original characters have obviously returned. With Ford's absence, the filmmakers had to get Jones or the movie couldn't really carry the sequel -- or spinoff -- moniker and probably would not have been made. Fortunately, he's returned and that's a good thing since he was probably the most popular character from that film. Although just as grimly serious and exuding a certain panache in the delivery of his lines -- as in the original -- Jones's character is not as fun as in "The Fugitive." That's simply because the novelty isn't present this time around, but he still has enough humorous lines and moments to please those who've come to see his character. Whether asking, "Who's the ugliest, inbred, son of a bitch out here?" to a bunch of hicks wanting to pilot his team through a swamp, or dressed in a yellow, oversized bird costume while undercover, he's always interesting to watch.

    With the hunting cat you need a fleeing mouse, and here we get Wesley Snipes. While his youth and physical prowess make him more of a match for Gerard's experience and craftiness than did Ford's doctor character, that actually becomes a drawback for the film. This is because he's not playing the underdog, but instead is presented as a much more worthwhile adversary. Likewise, while we knew the Kimble was innocent, Snipes' character is so vaguely drawn that you don't know for a long time if he's a good or bad guy (although you instinctively know he's good -- otherwise the story would go nowhere). Snipes does his best to flesh out his character, but he's written in such a shallow fashion that there's only so much he can do. The fact that we don't care that much for his character keeps us at a constant arm's distance from the action. We watch instead of getting involved, and that hurts the film when compared with the original.

    The rest of the cast is competent, and Robert Downey Jr. gets the most time playing off Jones' serious character, but he doesn't deliver anything that any number of other actors couldn't have also brought to the role. Gerard's team returns from the original with a new member, and the performers who inhabit them satisfactorily play the standard issue "grunts" who do most of Gerard's dirty work.

    When looked at solely standing on its own, the film is hardly awful, and should pass muster with viewers looking for a reasonably okay action/suspense flick. Even so, one can't help but continually compare it with the original, especially when so many moments are lifted from the first film and transplanted here. Obviously one expects many of the characters to return. What one doesn't expect -- at least in a well-made sequel -- is for such much of the first film to appear in the second.

    Director Stuart Baird ("Executive Decision") and screenwriter John Pogue (described in the production notes as being the best unproduced screenwriter -- an odd distinction to note) have lifted set elements from the original, spun them around a bit, and then put them back into this film. For instance, instead of the tremendous train wreck sequence where Ford's character escapes in the original, here we have a spectacular plane wreck that frees Sheridan. It's technically impressive and was created from a mixture of models (of the half-ton variety) and real-life action, and the scene is quite suspenseful. One gets the impression, though, that Baird and company simply set out to make the scene bigger, longer, and more destructive than the original, and we even get to see aerial footage of the massive path of destruction (just like in the first film).

    They've also replaced Ford's famous, "I can't believe what I just saw" jump from the edge of a dam with Snipe's leap from a tall building via a Tarzan-like swing on a cable. Both, of course, happen when Gerard has his fugitive cornered, and this one similarly leaves Tommy Lee Jones standing in frustrated amazement. We also get to hear Jones deliver his character's trademark search instructions (like the original's "...a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse..." ), albeit with something of a comic twist.

    The similarities don't stop there. Instead of chasing the fugitive in Chicago, we've now moved to New York, another labyrinth of endless blocks of buildings where the fugitive can hide. We even get aerial shots looking down on the city blocks and skyscrapers poking up like weeds. Unlike the first, however, where director Andrew Davis used such footage to symbolize the maze-like quality of the city, here the effect seems more just to recapture the visual style of the first, instead of the deeper meaning beneath it.

    Finally, there's the scene where Gerard watches videotape footage of the scenes that opened the film. Scouring them with his trained eye, he has the technician go from tape to tape and zoom in here and there, until he finally figures out the hidden truth from the footage. It's an okay moment, but it's so blatantly "ripping off" the similar audio detective work from the "The Fugitive" where he listens to the background noises from a telephone call and deciphers Kimble's location. Alone and without consideration that they're just retooled elements from the first film, such moments work. Yet they're so obviously lifted from the original that their effectiveness is vastly lessened.

    Beyond that fact, this film is inferior to the original simply due to it shift in whom the story focuses on, and the characteristics of the fugitive. Whereas the first film dealt with Harrison Ford's character, this film focuses on the one played by Tommy Lee Jones. On the surface, that's not such a bad thing since, after all, Jones was the more charismatic of the two and was the one who walked home with the Oscar. Yet that film succeeded because we liked both characters -- neither was the villain.

    This film tries to follow that design, but much more of the focus is on Gerard than on the fugitive trying to figure out the truth. What hurts it more, however, is that in the original we sympathized with Dr. Kimble because he was an ordinary guy (albeit a successful surgeon) caught up in extraordinary circumstances -- being charged with murdering his wife. We rooted for him because he was in way over his head, but still managed to figure out how to solve the "riddle."

    Sheridan, on the other hand, is a trained professional -- a covert government agent -- who killed two people (in self-defense) and only has to clear his name. We don't marvel at his ingenuity at discovering the conspiracy, or worry as much when he's nearly caught. Although Sheridan isn't a James Bond type agent, the fact that he knows what he's doing and is confident in doing so, makes us less prone to root for his success. That plot setup clearly isn't as effective as the one from the first, and thus we don't really care about Sheridan the way we did for Kimble.

    If it weren't for the fact that this is a sequel to a great film, this movie would be better received. Yet one can't help but see that this is trying to use so many elements from the first to make sure it's successful. In doing so, it lines itself up for comparison, and then fails considerably. Beyond that, the film feels too long -- especially toward the end -- and uses a far-fetched plot element that allows Gerard to find Sheridan from the skimpiest of clues that it so weak it should have audiences collectively groaning. Perhaps next time -- if there is one -- Gerard and his team will execute a ferocious, non-stop and massive search for a more original script. Decent, but certainly not great, "U.S. Marshals" gets a 5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at this film's content. Profanity contains 1 "f" and 16 "s" words among others. Several people are killed by gunshots (or by other means), others are wounded, and several of the deaths/injuries are somewhat bloody. Additionally, many scenes are suspenseful (in an action- oriented way) for those who don't like such moments. Beyond that, many of the other categories are rather void of major objectionable material. Even so, you should look through the content should you or someone in your family wish to see this film.

  • Gerard and his team celebrate with beers and other liquor in a bar after successfully catching some suspects.
  • People drink martinis and champagne or wine at a reception.
  • Sheridan's head is a little bloody after his truck flips over and crashes.
  • We briefly see some photographs of the dead agents who are slightly bloody.
  • We very briefly see a dead man in a shower whose throat is bloody from being slashed.
  • A man is shot in the back of the head by a sniper and we briefly see the impact.
  • Royce has a small trickle of blood from his nose after a fight.
  • A man who's been shot is very bloody, as are the hands of a man who tries to help him.
  • Another man who's shot is also bloody, as is a man who's been shot and killed.
  • Obviously those responsible for setting up Sheridan to take a fall have both.
  • Royce turns out not to be a good guy after all.
  • Cosmo refers to Chen, who is Asian, as a "Chinaman."
  • When Cosmo tries to help Gerard by "being a friend," Gerard (who's upset about a recent death) tells him that he's not his friend.
  • Some viewers may or may not find the following and/or scenes listed under "Violence" as tense.
  • Sheridan loses control of his truck that eventually crashes into several cars.
  • There is a long sequence (several minutes) involving a prison transport plane, several people being sucked from it, it crashing, and then sinking in water where Gerard has to free the upside down prisoners who are still shackled to their seats.
  • The entire end of the movie (many minutes) turns into a big game of cat and mouse and some viewers may find the many scenes a little, or a lot, tense.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Knives/Zip guns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people in various scenes. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Idiot," "Moron," "Pisses him off," "Screw up" and "Pain in my ass."
  • Sheridan suddenly grabs Royce.
  • A person suddenly puts their hand over someone's mouth.
  • There is a heavy amount of dramatically suspenseful and action-oriented music throughout the production.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 16 "s" words, 20 hells, 5 asses, 5 damns, 4 S.O.B.'s, and 3 uses of "Jesus," 2 uses each of "G-damn," "Oh God," and "Swear to God," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ" and "God" as exclamations.
  • A woman with Gerard at a reception wears a dress that reveals quite a bit of cleavage.
  • We briefly see some videotape footage of bikini-clad women who show some cleavage.
  • We see Cosmo with a cigar (lit and unlit) several times.
  • Some minor characters smoke here and there during the movie.
  • None.
  • The role of U.S. Marshals in law enforcement.
  • We see surveillance footage several times that shows Sheridan fighting with several people that ends with gunshots being fired and two people being shot and killed (from a distance and not graphic).
  • Sheridan's truck crashes into several other cars.
  • Gerard and his team make several arrests, but not before they have to fight with both the men and women they're arresting. The women hit Gerard and others with objects, while one of them tries to stab him with a knife. A large man fights with two of Gerard's men, and punches are thrown and bodies are slammed into walls. One of the team shoots a man who was going for a shotgun, and Gerard hits the large man on the head with the butt of a shotgun (later requiring many stitches) after the man bit into another person's shoulder.
  • A man tries to shoot Sheridan with a zip gun. He misses, but the shot blows out a window of the plane they're on and several people are sucked out to their deaths. The plane then crashes, catches on fire, and flips over into a river/lake where it begins sinking (and several more people die).
  • Sheridan holds a knife to a truck driver's wife when he catches a ride with them. Later, he holds a gun on them when they're stopped at a police roadblock.
  • Gerard pushes Royce backwards when he believes he's jeopardizing their case.
  • Sheridan makes a truck driver ram a police car and push it backwards across a bridge and down an embankment (no one is hurt).
  • Sheridan holds a gun to Royce's head during a standoff with Gerard. He then shoots Gerard (obviously wearing a bulletproof vest) and at another man. He then hits Royce on the head, who then fires several shots at the fugitive as he flees.
  • We see a dead man in the shower whose throat has been slashed.
  • Sheridan punches a man and holds a gun on him.
  • A sniper shoots a man in the back of the head and then shoots at Gerard and Sheridan who try to get away from him.
  • A car crashes into a truck (no one is seriously hurt).
  • Sheridan and Gerard's team exchange brief gunfire in a retirement building.
  • Sheridan and Royce fight over a gun with punches and kicks thrown.
  • A man shoots another man who moments later dies from the wounds.
  • Gerard and Sheridan fight with each delivering punches and kicks to the other.
  • A man is shot and wounded.
  • A man is shot and killed.

  • Reviewed March 2, 1998

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