Ossus Library Index Action Movie Index

US MARSHALS

Directed by Stuart Baird (1998, Warner Brothers)
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, and Robert Downey, Jr.

A group of marshals chase after a man who escaped a prison transport plane, who claims to be innocent.

 

 

3 stars

November 17th, 2000 on Video

 
    As part two in the Tommy Lee Jones vs. a runaway innocent fugitive, this installment, number 2, was not as good as the original Fugitive, but better than the third one, Double Jeopardy.  Jones does his usual good job at hunting down the person in question, and he actually has competent colleagues.  Unfortunately, I didn't understand the ending -the motivation for the obvious setup.

This movie is more about the hunt than the other two movies were.  There is very little that takes place from the point of view of the fugitive.  The fugitive is caught while in the hospital, after a car accident.  His fingerprints match those of a murderer in New York, across the country.  He claims innocence, but is ushered onto a plane with other fugitives, including one that our hunter, Sam, caught at the beginning of the movie.  There is a conflict on board, where one prisoner uses the toilet, and finds a projectile weapon in the toilet paper roll.  He attempts to shoot our fugitive, who obviously recognizes him.  The projectile blows out the window, and the plane goes down.  When all is said and done, there is one prisoner missing.  

The landing scene was done really well, as there were many tense moments as we wondered exactly who was going to survive.  Perhaps it went on for too long, as the plane clips telephone posts, nearly crashes into an overpass, and ends up rolling down a slope to land in the water of a roadside bay.  As water rushes into the plane, Sam risks his life to get the prisoners out.  

The movie is littered with one-liners, from the properly acerbic Jones and especially from his colleagues, his fellow marshals.  But the funniest scene has to be the local small town sheriff trying to take control of the situation.  It is obvious from the start that he is in over his head, from the moment he opens his mouth.  But Sam watches patiently (or impatiently) until the sheriff asks for his advice.  Then he takes over smoothly, like an old pro, and doles out commands.

The search is effective, as the man is found at a roadblock, but manages to smash his way through it.  Meanwhile, a New York police detective joins the marshals, against Sam's better judgment.  It was obvious from the start that this man (Robert Downey Jr.) was a traitor.  The way he smugly said that he volunteered for the mission, because the murdered men were his friends, told me all.  But Sam was just annoyed.  There was no reason for him not to trust the man, after all.

Both hunter and fugitive trace the shooter in the plane to a Chinese embassy, and discover that someone was giving out American secrets to the Chinese government.  When they confronted the boss of the police squad, I also knew that he was hiding his involvement in some plot.  I began to suspect that our fugitive was innocent, after all.  But he admitted to the killing.  That he was set up is confirmed relatively early on, as they show the video, and Sam notices that the man whose fingerprints linked him to the murder was wearing gloves the whole time.  

So it becomes a race to find the informant, who is obviously involved in the police department.  And though the movie had some nice twists here and there, I didn't understand where they were going with a lot of it.  In a cemetery, Sam follows the Chinese ambassadorial aide into a chapel.  The police chief then enters, and retrieves a briefcase that the Chinese man left there.  The fugitive confronts him, and marches him out, demanding to know why he was set up.  The chief is killed by the Chinese man (who is a sharp-shooter), and nearly takes Sam and the fugitive with him.  So it is the chief who was selling the information to the Chinese.  

But in a chase scene, Downey's character shoots and kills Sam's partner and friend, who happened to be in the way.  For some reason, he had the gun trained on the fugitive, but when the marshal came through the door, he shot the marshal, letting the fugitive escape.  He could very well have shot the man he was hunting, then shot the marshal witness.  Dramatic purpose, I guess, so we could see the fugitive bungee jump his way from a high-rise roof onto a train.  Which was neat in and of itself...

The showdown takes place as they discover he is on board a freighter bound for Canada!  They chase him through the halls, and then fight through a giant pile of grain, until Downey's character shoots his prey.  In the hospital, Sam finally realizes that the man he trusted with the hunt actually betrayed him.  The evidence is so scarce, and the ammunition switch so obvious, that I can't believe it actually worked.  Sam goes for some coffee, and the turncoat goes to finish off his prey.  But he doesn't shoot or stab the guy, he cuts his link to the I.V., and cuts the bonds away.  Then he taunts him, and tells him that yeah, he was the guy who set him up.  But I thought it was the chief?  I can't understand.  Was it one, or the other, or were they working together?  

Because the fugitive was in the special armed forces, was recruited to the police force as a detached operative, and later set up to take the fall for the document leaks.  

Sam catches the traitor, and stands there idly watching as the gun gets trained on him, then fired.  And then there's the astonished look on Downey's face as he realizes that his gun is empty.  But he pulls a backup gun, the idea for which was given to him by Sam at the beginning of the movie, and Sam shoots him dead.  

The ending was weak, in that the writers tried to do something different, but all they ended up doing was confusing the issue.  But the movie had a lot of strengths going for it.  The acting was all terrific.  The production of the movie was also great.  The action scenes let the heart pump, and all the spy tricks were nicely done, too.  But what I liked most about it was the way that everybody did everything right.  There were no stupid mistakes.  The search was done perfectly, and if he wasn't armed, the fugitive would not have gotten away.  They tailed him, as he was tailing somebody else.  They questioned his girlfriend, and everybody knew that they were lying.  They all met up again at the cemetery, where a wild card just barely splits them up.  I thought the train would save him, coming between him and Sam, but that cliché was avoided as the end of the train passed even before Sam approached the track.  

So everybody did everything right, and it was still a good long chase, and they actually got their man at the end.  The plane crash was intense, and though it wasn't as good as the train crash in The Fugitive, it was still extremely exciting.  The movie was so well produced and acted that it had me fooled for a while, until I began to think about it afterwards.  I was thoroughly impressed, that even though I didn't understand what happened at the end, the motivations and such, I didn't care.  

This movie still comes highly recommended, because it is so enjoyable in its element: heart-racing action.

 
   

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