By Eric Anderson
On the run again
Gone are the original writers, as well as most of the actors (except for some of Gerard's team of Marshals) and even the director who brought us the original film five years ago. Enter director Stuart Baird ("Executive Decision"), screenwriter John Pogue ("Eraser") and a new fugitive, played by Wesley Snipes.
This time, Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is back, again chasing a federal fugitive who is desperately trying to flee from the authorities so he can clear his name. Snipes plays an ex-special agent called Mark Sheridan who is caught up in a web of lies, espionage and mistaken identities that spreads all the way into the government. With the help of his girlfriend, Marie, played by Irene Jacob (who won the 1991 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Performance award for "The Double Life of Veronique"), Snipes does his best to avoid being captured by Gerard and the Marshals, who also have a new face among them: John Royce, played by Robert Downey Jr.
It's nice to see a fresh face on Gerard's squad, but unfortunately, they chose the wrong one. Downey is hardly believable as an athletic, top-of-the-line secret agent, who in one scene bolts past Gerard up several flights of stairs in pursuit of Sheridan.
All the action elements that made"The Fugitive" so captivating are back again; there's just one problem: we've already seen them. Instead of escaping from a prison-bound bus that gets hit by a train, this time our fugitive escapes from a downed airplane that is transporting prisoners. But not to worry, there are plenty of car chases and foot races that leave you yelling "Go Wesley! Go!" in the back of your head.
Jones' performance as Gerard in "U.S. Marshals" is much better than his portrayal of the same role in "The Fugitive." Whereas in "The Fugitive," Jones was all business, in "U.S. Marshals," he is witty, even somewhat comedic when he needs to be, and when the scene calls for a more serious tone, he dons that face just as well as in the original.
Snipes also turns in an above-average performance in an action role (unlike in "Passenger 57" and "Drop Zone").
By the end of the movie, it's fairly obvious whodunnit and why, yet the seemingly all-knowing Gerard appears to always be one step behind the audience, who is one step behind the killer.
While it's obvious both Snipes and Jones did all they could with the script, unfortunately it was just not enough. Even with this remarkable duo, holes in an undeveloped plot, weak dialogue and unanswered questions ultimately doom what could have been one of the best action thrillers of 1998. Even a return performance by Harrison Ford couldn't really have saved it.