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U.S. Marshals

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: U.S. Marshals

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes
Director: Stuart Baird
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: March 1998
Genres: Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Robert Downey Jr., Lorenzo Clemons, Irene Jacob, Joe Pantoliano, Latanya Richardson, Ray Toler, Kate Nelligan

Review by Walter Frith
1½ stars out of 4

What made 1993's 'The Fugitive' so compelling was that it managed to avoid becoming just another routine action picture with a clever script which a lot of writers worked on, among them David Giler, Walter Hill, Robert Mark Kamen, David Newman, Jeb Stuart and David N. Twohy. It had an average director (Andrew Davis) who managed to pull a rabbit out of his director's hat by doing extremely good work but he didn't get an Oscar nomination while the film, for Best Picture, did. The film did earn Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as a determined U.S. marshall who absolutely will not quit until he gets his man and Harrison Ford was unjustifiably misunderstood and snubbed for a Best Actor nomination as Jones' intended quarry, and Ford turned in a performance which had little dialogue but plenty of method, sublime and reaction acting which I suppose explains why the Academy asked him to present the Best Picture award at that given year's ceremonies.

Director Stuart Baird ('Executive Decision') is at the helm of 'U.S. Marshals' which can't quite avoid being a diluted remake of 'The Fugitive', as the plot is restricted once again to the pursuit of one man and the exposure of a frame-up. You don't get films more studio oriented than this but this unnecessary movie is not a total wipeout, despite being an effort to cash-in on the original, as it does have some eye catching stunts, action and a pleasant pace at times but the movie is extremely uneven.

Tommy Lee Jones is back as the U.S. marshall and this time his adventure leads him to the pursuit of an escaped prisoner (Wesley Snipes) who is framed for two murders involving international and domestic espionage and Jones' entire team of assistants from the first film are back to assist him.

We had a bus crash and train wreck account for the mayhem which led to escaped prisoners in 'The Fugitive' and this time it's a plane crash and its drowning wreckage that is the culprit. Harrison Ford jumps off of the edge of a water dam tunnel and now Snipes avoids being captured by Jones by swinging on a wire from the top of a building in New York and landing squarely on top of a high speed subway car and Snipes salutes his predator as the train speeds away and Jones can only watch.

I had an accurate picture of the plot this time, regardless of its shortcomings, but I was struck by the quantity of unnecessary characters written in for no good measure. There is Snipes' girlfriend (Irene Jacob) who amounts to nothing more than a sympathetic beauty. There's Kate Nelligan, a U.S. marshal who barks orders and pushes a pencil behind her bureaucratic desk who isn't really in the field of action and just happens to be Jones' boss (it should be the other way around) and then there's Robert Downey Jr., an agent assisting Jones' and his team who is suspiciously low-key but never effective after being exposed for what he is. I ended up saying "Why are these people here for no other reason except to be annoying?"

In wake of its recent trend of flops, Warner Bros. is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year which they are marketing heavily and while studio execs who are green lighting projects and making movies that matter but don't generate great box office such as 'L.A. Confidential', it would be nice to see a film from them that didn't have to be a quick cash grab and all studios should have the integrity to occasionally say no to a sequel just for the sake of money. Just ask the creators of 'E.T.'

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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