Whatever happened to the art of the sequel? OK, I know that, with a few exceptions, sequels have rarely been as good as their predecessors. But at least sequels used to be sequels. These days, you’re more likely to get a simple, pale remake of the original. Look at Home Alone 3, Blues Brothers 2000, or Scream 2 for a few recent examples. Or even more currently, look at U.S. Marshals.
U.S. Marshals is a sequel (or, as the publicists are calling it, a “spin-off”) of The Fugitive. Tommy Lee Jones is back in his Academy Award winning role as U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard. This time around, he’s on the trail of a fugitive who has escaped in a spectacular transportation accident. The fugitive goes on the run to prove his innocence while the methodical Gerard and his crackerjack team of agents proceed to track him down. Sound familiar? U.S. Marshals even goes as to duplicate The Fugitive’s signature surrender-or-jump to certain death action scene.
But this time, instead of Harrison Ford, the fugitive is Wesley Snipes. Instead of an emotionally involving crime, as we were given in The Fugitive, Snipes is embroiled in a rather dry government conspiracy. All of this adds up to a dry and pasty recreation of the original.
On the plus side, the film brings back Gerard’s enjoyable team, including Joe Pantoliano and Tom Wood. In addition, his seasoned crew is joined by a shady government agent of questionable ability, John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.).
When it’s not busy being overly derivative, U.S. Marshals does contain several serviceable action sequences. However, for the most part, they lack an emotional core. Hence, they’re never as gripping or thrilling as they try to be.
On the acting side, Jones is good, but doesn’t add anything new to his role of Sam Gerard. Snipes suffers in comparison to Harrison Ford, but on his own, he does a decent, if not outstanding job. A talented supporting cast, though, this time is misused. The film adds two unnecessary characters: Kate Nelligan as Sam Gerard’s boss, and Irene Jacob as Wesley Snipes’ girlfriend. They’re given little to do, and reek heavily of filler.
Director Stuart Baird, who did an excellent job with his debut film, Executive Decision, can’t help but have his work be overshadowed by the strong sense of deja vu that permeates this film. The film’s action sequences are well handled, but the transitions are a bit jumpy and confusing.
Rather than simply rehash The Fugitive, why not follow the title’s cue and put the focus on Sam Gerard and his band of merry men. The film would have been much more interesting, and invited much less comparison with its superior predecessor, if it had struck off into new territory, rather than revisiting the wrongfully accused fugitive angle.