Retro Film Review: U.S. Marshals (1998)

in #aaa2 months ago


Big commercial success of The Fugitive, 1993 film adaptation of the popular 1960s television series, led some people in Hollywood to speculate about possible sequels. First speculations revolved around new adventures of Dr. Richard Kimble, protagonist of the original. Than the more reasonable concept for the sequel came in the form of a film that wouldn't deal with another character from 1993 film, more suitable for action film franchise. That film was U.S. Marshals, 1998 action thriller directed by Stuart Baird.

Protagonist of U.S. Marshals is Samuel Gerard (played by Tommy Lee Jones), U.S. Marshal who is top expert when it comes to capturing escaped prisoners. Accused of using excessive force during his last action, he is punished with the routine task of escorting prisoners in a special plane. One of the prisoners is Mark Sheridan (played by Wesley Snipes), suspected murderer of two federal agents. During the flight someone tries to kill Sheridan which results in a plane crash and Sheridan's subsequent escape. Gerard is given the task of capturing Sheridan and Royce (played by Robert Downey Jr.), agent of Diplomatic Security Service, is brought to his team. It turns out that Sheridan used to be highly trained soldier specialised for covert activities, while his alleged victims were involved in counter-intelligence operation against double agents working for China. While the chase continues, Gerard finds information pointing to Sheridan's innocence.

Although technically a spin-off rather than sequel of The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals actually tries very hard to repeat formula of the original. The problem is in the inept script by John Pogue that unsuccessfully tries to cover its derivative nature by spicing up the story with government conspiracies and international espionage. Stuart Baird, former editor whose directorial debut was more than decent action thriller Executive Decision, tries to follow suit with action scenes being more spectacular than in the original. Those scenes might indeed look more spectacular, but they are less convincing than in the original. Same goes for characters, including the protagonist. In The Fugitive Tommy Lee Jones played Gerard as true law enforcement professional; thanks to Pogue's cliched script Gerard is in this film transformed into half-crazed maverick. The original also featured ordinary protagonist whose innocence audience never doubted and with whom it could identify with; true moral alignment of Snipes' character in the sequel remains mystery, and when it is revealed, audience doesn't care much about it. Apart from cliches, including the identity of chief villain (which was rather easy to guess even for less experience viewers), U.S. Marshals had serious problem with pacing. Despite plenty of action, two hours of this film seem too long. U.S. Marshals is at times entertaining and can be watched, but even those viewers who had their expectations set below high standards of The Fugitive are going to experience disappointment.
RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on May 6th 2004)

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Critic: AA