U.S. Marshals (1998, directed by Stuart Baird)

Mark Roberts (Wesley Snipes), formerly of the Diplomatic Security Service and wanted for murder, escapes when his prison transport aircraft crashes into an Illinois swamp.  U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) was on the same flight and quickly assembles his team so that they can track down and capture the fugitive.  That’s what Sam Gerard does.  He’s the best fugitive hunter around.  Complicating matters is that an inexperienced DSS agent named John Royce (Robert Downey, Jr.) has been assigned to the team.  Royce says that the men that Mark killed were friends of his and this hunt is personal for him.  However, Sam suspects that Mark might not be as guilty as he seems.  Considering that the last high-profile fugitive that Sam chased was also innocent, I have to wonder why Sam has any faith in the system at all.

Based on the classic televisions how, The Fugitive was one of the biggest film hits of 1993 and it also became one of the few action films to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture of the Year.  Even though the film starred Harrison Ford as a doctor wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, it was Tommy Lee Jones who got all the best lines and all the critical attention.  Tommy Lee Jones was also the one who received an Oscar for his work on the film.  The Fugitive was such a hit that it was pretty much guaranteed that there would be a sequel.  Since there were only so many times that Richard Kimble could reasonably be wrongly convicted of murder, it also made sense that future films were focus on Sam Gerard and his team.

U.S. Marshals was the first Fugitive sequel and, as a result of terrible reviews and a lackluster box office performance, it was also the only sequel.  I saw U.S. Marshals when it was first released in 1998.  I enjoyed it but I was also a teenage boy.  Back then, I liked everything as long as it featured a car chase, a gunfight, and a leggy female lead.  Last night, I rewatched the film for the first time since it was originally released and I still enjoyed it but I could also understand why U.S. Marshals didn’t lead to a Sam Gerard franchise.  

The plane crash was as cool as I remembered.  So was the scene where Wesley Snipes escaped from Sam by jumping onto a train.  (That scene was featured in all of the commercials.)  The scenes of Tommy Lee Jones getting frustrated with incompetent local law enforcement were still entertaining, as were the scenes of him interacting with his team.  I even liked the much-criticized cemetery stakeout.  There was much about the film to like but the main problem was that Sam Gerard works better as a supporting player than as a leading character.

Harrison Ford really doesn’t get enough credit for the success of The Fugitive.  One the main reasons why that film works is because Ford is so likable and sympathetic as Richard Kimble.  It’s entertaining to check in on Sam and his team but it’s Ford who makes us care about the story.  In U.S. Marshals, Wesley Snipes’s character is never as clearly defined as Kimble.  We learn very little about him, other than he tries not to actually hurt anyone while escaping.  There’s no emotional stakes to whether Mark is innocent or guilty and no real suspense as Sam goes through the motions of hunting him.  Sam may still have a way with words but, in U.S. Marshals, he’s just doing his job.  Things do get personal when Sam and his team are betrayed by one of their allies and a member of the team is killed but even then, it doesn’t make sense that the bad guy, who had been pretty careful up until that point, would mess up his plans by impulsively killing someone who hadn’t really witnessed anything that incriminating.

I think U.S. Marshals missed its calling.  Sam and his team were entertaining enough that, if they had starred in a weekly television show called U.S. Marshals, it probably would have run for ten seasons.  As a movie, though, it can’t escape the long shadow of The Fugitive.


2022 Emmy Nomination Thoughts

The Emmy nominations were announced this morning.  As usual, I agree with a few of the nominations and disagreed with the majority of them.  I was happy to see Abbott Elementary nominated for Best Comedy.  I was happy that Barry got a lot of love.  You can see all the nominees over at Emmys.com.

For the most part, I think my personal nominations were better.

For Best Comedy Series, I was happy to see Abbott Elementary, Barry, Only Murders In The Building, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and What We Do In The Shadows nominated.  I was not happy to see that Cobra Kai, Ghosts, and The Flight Attendant were pretty much shut out of the major categories, with the exception of Kaley Cuoco’s nomination for Best Actress.  Though I’m not a huge fan of Ted Lasso, I realize that others are and I don’t think it’s bad show as much as it’s just not for me.  Hacks, I am going to guess, was nominated because it was about show business.  Curb Your Enthusiasm was nominated out-of-habit, as this latest season was pretty much unwatchable.  I’m disappointed Atlanta wasn’t nominated but, to be honest, I kind of suspected that this season would be too surreal for the voters.  Donald Glover was nominated for Best Actor but how did Atlanta not land even a single writing nomination?

For Drama Series, I actually agree with 6 of the 8 nominees, Better Call Saul, Euphoria, Severance, Squid Game, and Yellowjackets.  I will be rooting for Yellowjackets, though we all know that Succession is going to win again.  Succession pretty much dominated the acting nominations as well.  I’ll be cheering for Severance’s Adam Scott and Christopher Walken and Yellowjackets’s Melanie Lynesky and Christina Ricci.  That said, I’m fully expecting Succession to sweep.  Maybe Bob Odenkirk will finally get some Emmy love and spare us from a self-congratulatory Brian Cox acceptance speech.  That would be nice.

Best Limited Series, I don’t even want to talk about.  I agree with one nominee, The Dropout.  My other favorite miniseries — shows like Maid, Pistol, Candy, The Offer, Angelyne, 1883, Dr. Death — were shut out for stuff like Inventing Anna and Pam & Tommy.  I imagine that Dopesick will sweep this category, despite not being that interesting of a show.  Narratively, Dopesick was a mess but it had four good performances (Michael Keaton, Kaitlyn Dever, Peter Sarsgaard, and Will Poulter) and a villain that was easy to dislike.

As far as Best TV Movie goes, I imagine that The Survivor will win and I’m happy with that.  I would have liked to have seen a nomination or two for I Want You Back and The House but The Survivor is an important film and, at a time when anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial is being normalized, it’s a film that deserves more attention.  With a growing number of celebrities and influencers recently displaying their ignorance of what happened in Nazi Germany and often being openly anti-Semitic without any apparent consequences, it’s easy to see why it’s important to honor films like The Survivor.

The Amazing Race was nominated for Best Competition Show.  I was happy about that.

When I started off this post, I was upset about the Emmys snubbing some of my favorite shows but, as I’ve sat here typing, I’ve calmed down.  It’s just the Emmys and don’t know anyone who really takes them seriously.  The winners will be announced on September 12th.