|U.S. Marshals (Special Edition)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Wednesday, 22 July 1998|
If you want to hear metal and men screaming in agony and get the feeling of hurtling out of control from one life-threatening predicament to another, jump right up to Chapters 9-11 in 'U.S. Marshals.' The sound is screamingly loud and clear, the imagery is kinetically chaotic and the action is relentless enough to elicit whoops of approval at the filmmakers' willingness to wring every last hairy twist out of an attempted prison break on a plane in mid-flight. The sequence keeps recharging itself, becoming ever more exciting just as it seems it's got to wind down. That the other setpieces in 'U.S. Marshals' don't entirely pale by comparison is a tribute to the skill and inventiveness of director Stuart Baird and writer John Pogue, who keep this follow-up to 'The Fugitive' as inventive as the original, if even more unlikely.
Tommy Lee Jones won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his charismatic work as dedicated lawman Sam Gerard, who chased Harrison Ford's title character hither and yon in 1993's 'The Fugitive.' Gerard's job in this film is to capture an escaped con (Wesley Snipes) who is accused of the brutal murders of two U.S. government agents.
As in 'The Fugitive,' 'U.S. Marshals' divides its attention between Gerard's gutsy, methodical search and the machinations of his target, who struggles to retain his freedom while attempting to prove his innocence. It's not impossible to guess who the ultimate villain will turn out to be, but that's not the point. Director Baird knows exactly how to rev up an audience and writer Pogue paces the script sensibly, putting in enough exposition for the plot to be coherent with enough action to blow our socks off.
Of the extra goodies on the DVD, the "making of" documentary is informative; the short about real-life U.S. marshals is somewhat informative, though it serves largely as a trailer for two other films, 'Cahill: U.S. Marshal' and 'Wyatt Earp.' It also contains the eyebrow-raising phrase "rightful owners" when referring to pre-Civil War slave keepers. A century ago they may have legally owned slaves, but in 1998, "rightful ownership" of one human being by another is generally regarded as an oxymoron.
This aside, the filmmakers and Jones make Gerard so smart, capable and ironic that it's a pleasure to be asked to identify with him, making 'U.S. Marshals' is one cool sequel.