U.S. Marshals isn’t a bad film and actually has a few decent scenes throughout. It’s competently made for sure, but that’s about it as the film is as by-the-numbers as it gets. The acting is fine, although even Tommy Lee Jones looked like he couldn’t give a rat’s ass and was merely there for a nice paycheck (reprising an Oscar-winning role, after all). Still, if it’s a slow, breezy Saturday afternoon, then it might be worth watching.
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 131 min. – $19.98 | June 5, 2012
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Writer(s): Roy Huggins (characters); John Pogue (written by)
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, Robert Downey Jr., Joe Pantoliano
Theatrical Release Date: March 6, 1998
Features: Commentary. Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 40.3 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C (untested)
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Plot Outline: Chief Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard (TOMMY LEE JONES) is back, this time in charge of hunting down and capturing fugitive Mark Sheridan (WESLEY SNIPES) who is accused of gunning down two federal agents. Joining Gerard and his team – Cosmo (JOE PANTOLIANO), Bobby Biggs (DANIEL ROEBUCK, Noah Newman (TOM WOOD) and Savannah Cooper (LATANYA RICHARDSON) – is Special Agent John Royce a.k.a. kickass character name (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) assigned to the team by the Feds.
Sheridan manages to escape after the plane he, fellow prisoners and Samuel Gerard, are on crashes after an attempt was made on his life. The bullet breaks open a window, creates a giant hole as the plane loses pressure (just to note: “Mythbusters” busted this very scene). With no airstrip nearby, the 727 lands on a back country road, clips some power lines before tumbling end over end into a lake. Now the manhunt is on with Gerard and his team is after one objective while Sheridan tries to get “righteous” and clear his name.
Remember how the plot for The Fugitive was pretty simple? Yeah, there was a conspiracy element with Big Pharmaceutical at the core but U.S. Marshals seems to take it a step further involving espionage and trading of government secrets to foreign countries. It’s not that the plot isn’t easy to follow but it all felt more than a little convoluted. Anyway, the chase leads to New York City where chase ensues, a member of Gerard’s team is killed – they assume by Sheridan, but instead an early revealed twist, it was somebody else – and the film’s signature shot made for the trailers finds Snipe’s stunt double swinging off the ledge of a building on top of a moving train. Unfortunately I think that’s as thrilling as this movie gets.
First things first: the cast and casting itself, wasn’t bad. Tommy Lee Jones returns in his Oscar winning role but I knew it would be a joke as the filmmakers chose to make his introduction in a chicken outfit. I’m not looking for a too serious drama here, but the Gerard in The Fugitive sure as shit wouldn’t have done that and given that post to Cosmo or Newman… Even so, Jones is fine in the part albeit not outstanding and no scenes that really stand out either. Wesley Snipes is suitable for the fugitive role and given his A-list status back in the mid to late 1990s, it was probably a smart hire, but I can’t say he really brought anything to the bland character. Robert Downey Jr. who, if I recall correctly, was dealing with or on the cusp of his drug-crazed area in his life doesn’t do too bad with a limited role, although the dynamic between he and Jones was decent enough. Point is, with these three leads, and the supporting cast for that matter, none of them really made an impression.
The fact is, while each of them are good actors, the screenplay was the epitome of average. Written by John Pogue in his debut, and would go on to write the dreadful and equally convoluted The Skulls, the awful Rollerball and the dull Ghost Ship, it’s no wonder the script is utterly boring to the point where I almost dozed off (it doesn’t help if it’s your third or fourth viewing, which goes into replay value).
Longtime editor Stuart Baird (Lethal Weapon, Casino Royale, Green Lantern and the upcoming Skyfall) made his directorial debut in 1996 with the fun action-thriller, Executive Decision with U.S. Marshals being his follow-up. While on a technical level he doesn’t do a bad job, albeit used a few too many angled shots, it’s not very inspiring or energetic. Instead, it kind of goes through the motions, one shot to the next but kind of forgettable.
And as a whole, while having a few entertaining moments and a couple cool action sequences, U.S. Marshals is just… forgettable. The performances are OK but the plot is so convoluted that it’s hard to take it seriously, not to mention clocking in at 130-minutes, it’s a good 10-15 minutes too long. It was a mistake to even make a sequel to an intense thriller like The Fugitive but the old adage of less is more, should’ve been applied here.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
From what I can tell, all the features, save for a couple TV spots, were ported over from the old DVD release.
Feature Commentary – Director Stuart Baird isn’t very lively as it’s fairly dry and could’ve used another participant in the room. He does provide some behind-the-scenes information but it’s so dull and boring, it is a chore to get through.
Anatomy of the Plane Crash (12:44; SD) allows the viewer to check out the different aspects of the sequence from the model, exterior/interior, location, water filming, research and even comparing this crash to the train derailment in The Fugitive. This is probably the best and most expansive feature on the disc.
Justice Under the Star (18:27; SD) is a featurette focusing on the U.S. Marshal service. This is the type of thing that would be shown in a middle school history class topped off with a cheesy narration.
Theatrical Trailer (2:29; SD)
VIDEO – 4.25/5
U.S. Marshals makes its debut on Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and 1080p HD. The transfer actually looks pretty good. Often enough, I’ve seen these cheap, cash-grab catalogue releases even from only 10-15 years ago not get the same treatment as some of the classics, but this isn’t bad. The detail level is, for the most part, good and the black levels are stark without losing any of the other elements. I didn’t notice much in the way of artifacts or pixilation. The color levels are also impressive, never going to the extreme either way. It’s not perfect as some of the background objects are bit fuzzier but otherwise it’s a solid transfer.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The disc has been given a nice and hefty 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which sounds fine during dialogue-laden scenes but picks up the pace during the action sequences, specifically the airplane crash. The rear speakers get mainly used for off-camera sounds such as idle chatter and general ambient noises.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, U.S. Marshals isn’t a bad film and actually has a few decent scenes throughout. It’s competently made for sure, but that’s about it as the film is as by-the-numbers as it gets. The acting is fine, although even Tommy Lee Jones looked like he couldn’t give a rat’s ass and was merely there for a nice paycheck (reprising an Oscar-winning role, after all). Still, if it’s a slow, breezy Saturday afternoon, then it might be worth watching.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.