My first reaction to U.S. Marshals was that there was nothing original, nothing that broke from the action movie formula, in the entire film. I was wrong, but not by much.
The movie is a sequel to The Fugitive, the above-average thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford. Actually, it’s more of a remake than a sequel. This time, Sam Gerard (Jones) is on the trail of Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes). Sheridan, like Ford’s character in The Fugitive, is falsely accused, arrested, convicted, and put on a prison transport that crashes. Sheridan is able to escape, and Marshal Sam Gerard is called off his current assignment to catch him.
I felt bad for Jones being caught in such a mediocre film after he won an Oscar for the same role (he won Best Supporting Actor in 1993 for The Fugitive). In fact, the first time we see Jones on screen he is dressed in a chicken suit. It was beneath his dignity. When he first read the script he should have turned it down cold.
But because Jones took the role, the movie was somewhat salvaged. Jones’ portrayal of Sam’s almost neurotic relentlessness added an interesting angle to the movie. Also, the pacing was surprisingly good, considering that the movie was so predictable. No sequence lingered too long before the hunt moved to a new setting or took a new turn. And the supporting cast of marshals (particularly Joe Pantoliano and LaTanya Richardson) was good. The dialog and banter among them was lively and natural; it felt like they actually worked together, as a unit, every day.
But the movie also had big problems in the script and in the direction.
The movie was too unoriginal and predictable to be much fun. It looks different from its predecessor, but the differences are purely superficial. The structure and outcome borrow heavily from the first, and the whole movie has the feel of a slapped-together, uninspired sequel.
And other than Jones’, none of the characters were very well developed. Snipes’ character was contrived to be similar to Harrison Ford’s in the original, constraining his acting options. Robert Downey Jr. had a two-dimensional part as an unwelcome outsider assigned to work on Sam’s close-knit team. And Iréne Jacob’s talents were wasted as Sheridan’s girlfriend, a part that was clearly written for the sole purpose of getting a beautiful model into the movie.
With U.S. Marshals, Baird and the film’s seven producers built an expensive mansion on a swampy patch of land in Greeley, Colorado: they spent a lot of money on a bad script written from a story that’s only mildly interesting, regardless of the quality of its telling.
Skip this one unless you’re a Jones fan.