"Tommy Lee won the Academy Award for his role, the marshals behind him were fun, and the franchise would be an asset for Warner Bros. Every two years we could have Gerard chasing a new fugitive. It made sense"
- producer Arnold Kopelson, Cinescape Interview
Given that 1993's "The Fugitive" had a global box-office take of $353 million, talk of a sequel from the producers, husband and wife team Arnold and Anne Kopelson, was inevitable. But how could a sequel be generated, given that "The Fugitive" ended with a complete resolution of the Dr. Kimble story arc, without any dangling plot points upon which to build the next installment? Dr. Kimble remarries and his second wife ends up dead, sending him on the lam again? No, the Kopelson team took a different angle, in the hopes of telling a story that would be viable, believable, and capture the energy of the first movie. "U.S. Marshals", more of a spin-off in "The Fugitive" franchise than a sequel, is the result and unfortunately, it falls painfully short of the their intentions.
If I ever see Gerard in yellow tights again, I'm going to die a happy man.
Tommy Lee Jones reprises his Academy Award-winning role as U.S. marshal Samuel Gerard, Dr. Kimble's nemesis from "The Fugitive". This time, however, he is in pursuit of Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes), a Chicago tow truck driver convicted of two murders in New York City. However, while being extradited back to the Big Apple, a botched assassination attempt on the plane he is being transported on results in a calamitous plane crash. During the confusion, Sheridan manages to escape into the surrounding woods. Reflecting the government conspiracy-chic that has become commonplace in popular culture today, Sheridan is a former government operative, making him a wily adversary and sets up the inevitable conflict of Gerard versus the shadowy elements of his own government. Joining Gerard on this manhunt are several returning marshals from "The Fugitive" (Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck, and Tom Wood), a new female marshal (LaTanya Richardson), Gerard's by-the-book superior (Kate Nelligan), and John Royce (Robert Downey, Jr.), an arrogant government agent whose knowledge of covert operations comes in very useful during this manhunt (but then again, does he have his own hidden agenda?). And assisting Sheridan is Marie (stunning French actress Irene Jacob, from "Three Colors: Red", who is a better actress than what you see in UM), his girlfriend and accomplice.
What are you going to do now?
I'm going to find the person that set me up and clear my name.
Unfortunately, UM suffers from a bad case of déja vu, re-hashing elements from the first movie: instead of seeing a show-stopping train wreck, we see a show-stopping plane wreck; and instead of Kimble evading capture by jumping off a waterfall, Sheridan evades capture by jumping off a building and landing on a moving train. The shift from the fugitive to the pursuer as the main protagonist is also mismanaged: instead of providing a character arc that further develops the Gerard character or gives him a new insurmountable challenge to face, much like how dramatic television would flesh out its characters over the life of a series, the audience is not provided any further insights into what makes Gerard tick-- Gerard is put through exactly the same paces he was put through in the first installment as the confident and determined U.S. marshal that is confronted with evidence that his target may actually be innocent. Furthermore, the ensemble cast approach, in addition to diluting the focus of the story, also shortchanges the secondary characters, such as Royce, who end up as uninteresting generic characters along for the ride. And though the government agent background of the new fugitive provides some interesting narrative possibilities, his 'crime' does not generate the same emotional beats as Kimble attempting to clear his name by finding his wife's murderer.
How long you gonna take to catch him? I got PTA tonight.
To top it off, the script, written by John Pogue, in addition to some cheap humor, also contains a couple of blatant plot holes that most viewers will catch-- of course, the characters in the movie are oblivious to them, avoiding the dreaded affliction of SMS (short movie syndrome). Stuart Baird, who cut his directing teeth in "Executive Decision", does the best he can with the lackluster material, though the pedestrian pacing sabotages whatever suspense and energy there is left in the mediocre plot. On the plus side, there are some interesting action set pieces that will provide adrenaline junkies their requisite thrills, but overall, "U.S. Marshals" is mildly entertaining, hardly original, and pales in comparison to "The Fugitive".