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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Edward Johnson-Ott review follows movie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
4.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewvideo review
5.  David Wilcock read the review movie review

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1 star out of 4

Advertisements for "U.S. Marshals" present the film as a sort-of sequel to "The Fugitive." Don't be fooled. "The Fugitive," while no masterpiece, was a taunt enough thriller, with a tight script and strong characterizations from Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. "U.S. Marshals, " on the other hand, is just another slam-bang chase movie, with lots of flashy action set pieces strung together with a script direct from Cliché Central.

Tommy Lee Jones reprises his Oscar winning role as tough-as-nails, always- gets-his-man Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard. As in the first movie, Gerard and his plucky crew spend a couple of hours playing tag with an innocent man accused of murder. This time, former CIA operative Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) is "It," racing about trying to prove that he was set up. Added to the mix is John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.,) a government agent assigned to "help" Gerard in his pursuit. That's about all there is to the plot. Basically, everyone chases each other from one action sequence to the next, while Jerry Goldsmith's yammering score underlines the tension we're supposed to feel.

Tommy Lee Jones is a tremendous actor and Sam Gerard is a fascinating character, but "U.S. Marshal's" screenplay gives him nowhere to go dramatically and 133 tedious minutes to get there. In "The Fugitive," Harrison Ford's Richard Kimble, a doctor falsely convicted of murdering his wife, is thrown into a nightmarish situation and must rely on his wits to try and save himself. It's fascinating watching the interplay between Ford's desperate Everyman and Jones' relentless Gerard.

Compare that to Snipes' bland character here. Mark Sheridan was a secret agent. Avoiding capture was part of his job description, for Christ's sake, which lets a lot of air out of the dramatic balloon. Snipes doesn't help matters much, giving a flat, mechanical performance without a hint of nuance. It's hard to feel empathy for Snipes and difficult to be engaged by the spectacle of two professionals chasing each other around the country.

John Pogue's anemic script tries to build up Gerard's character by reminding us again and again that we're watching one tough bastard who will stop at nothing to snag his quarry. "Looks like Sam has used up eight of his nine lives," offers one of his crew. "Your reputation has preceded you," a Federal agent admires. When asked "Is this guy crazy?" a teammate replies "No, but he's a carrier."

Gerard appears quite comfortable with his newly bestowed superhero status. He struts around in front of dazzled locals, loudly exchanging strained banter with his rag-tag crew. In the first film, Gerard and company were a crack team. Here, they come off as smug and self-satisfied as the Ghostbusters in their prime. Of course, from the opening scene, which goes for an easy laugh by having Gerard race about in a chicken suit, it's obvious that Pogue has no intention of maintaining the character's integrity.

Women don't fare well in the film, either. Irene Jacob is wasted as Sheridan's vacuous girlfriend, serving no function other than to provide Starbucks with a whale of a product placement. Kate Nelligan pops in occassionally as Gerard's boss. It's obvious most of her scenes were left on the cutting room floor when she abruptly tells Gerard, "I love you, but that doesn't mean I won't fire you," leaving viewers to scratch their heads and go, "What? Who? Where?"

Structurally, the film is just a faded Xerox of "The Fugitive." Richard Kimble escaped from a spectacular train wreck. Mark Sheridan escapes from a spectacular plane crash (in a scene ripped off from "Con Air".) Kimble makes a spectacular leap off the edge of a dam. Sheridan makes a spectacular bungee leap off a building and onto a moving train. Sure, the crashes and stunts are nifty, but they aren't nifty enough to make up for cardboard characters and a plot straight out of "Rocky and Bullwinkle."

The film leaves more than a few nagging questions. Is there anyone in this story who isn't a master at picking locks? Are the filmmakers just fans of Buddy Guy's Legends nightclub and the Broadway hit "Rent," or did they have to pay for their product placements too? And most of all, why in the world does Gerard keep chasing Sheridan when he's clearly figured out that the guy has been framed?

Maybe he suffered memory loss, a delayed reaction from becoming overheated spending all those hours in a chicken suit. Or maybe he's just preoccupied, wondering how anyone could take a character as distinctive as Sam Gerard and stick him in a movie as half-assed as "U.S. Marshals."

Copyright © 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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