U.s. Marshals

on March 06, 1998 by Simon O'Ryan
   Ultimately absolutely forgettable, this cardboard cutout sequel to 1993's "The Fugitive" lacks the charm and chemistry of the original. Not that such things are often expected in action sequels, but anticipation was high for the great idea of producers Anne and Arnold Kopelson to build the sequel around the supporting actor from the first hit film. "The Fugitive" was basically a big chase movie with the always popular Harrison Ford and a surprisingly engaging Tommy Lee Jones, who was so wonderful that he reached a new level of stardom with the film as well as an Oscar for his performance as no-nonsense, always-gets-his-man Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerald.
   This time out, the fugitive in question is former CIA agent Sheridan (Wesley Snipes), who is wanted for killing his fellow agents and selling government secrets. Gerard quickly realizes Sheridan's special skills make him especially slippery, and the government boys, with all their cloak-and-dagger secrecy, are busy covering up a lot of the truth. Gerard is further bothered by an annoying special agent/watchdog assigned to the case: John Royce, played by a wasted (let's hope not literally) Robert Downey Jr.
   It's simply wrong that the filmmakers chose to repeat "Fugitive's" formula so completely. And Wesley Snipes is still not fulfilling the promise he briefly showed in "Waiting to Exhale." Even worse, Snipes is paired for some inexplicable reason with an awful Irene Jacob ("Othello") as his loving French girlfriend, Marie--a subplot that is excruciatingly out-of-sync with the film.
   Though the lesson might be "Never underestimate the power of a Ford," it's important to point out that what's also missing from the original mix is the director (Andrew Davis) and writers (Jeb Stuart and David Twohy). With "U.S. Marshals," director Stuart Baird ("Executive Decision") knows how to create tension and craft chase scenes, but the characterizations fall far short, leaving the film completely lacking for emotional tension. The script by John Pogue is a hackneyed paint-by-numbers mess. Even Gerald's team of Deputy Marshals, who are ostensibly a bigger part of the story here, have less to do and do it less well than the first time around. "U.S. Marshals" is too long and too annoying for even die-hard Jones fans to enjoy; the best bet would be to wait for the video release, and even then, rent "The Fugitive."    Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey Jr. Directed by Stuart Baird. Written by John Pogue. Produced by Arnold Kopelson and Anne Kopelson. A Warner release. Action. Rated PG-13 for some scenes of violence and brief language. Running time: 130 min.
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