Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 8/3/98
Special Edition - 1998 (1998) - Warner Bros.
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Not even in the same league as The
Fugitive - Jones and Snipes aren't quite enough to carry
it. But some decent action and funny moments keep it reasonably
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Generally good 16x9 enhanced picture and excellent sound quality.
But it's the extras that really shine.
Overall Rating: B+
Not the best actioner available on DVD, but likeable enough. The
great extras and terrific price make it well worth a look. Lots of
bang for your buck.
131 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
dual-sided, Snapper packaging, interactive featurette: Anatomy
of a Plane Crash, documentary: Justice
Under the Star, audio commentary by Stuart Baird,
production notes, cast and crew bios, 2 theatrical trailers, 3 TV
spots, animated film-themed menu screens (with background music),
scene access (40 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French
(DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Close Captioned
Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes star in this sequel to the 1993
action hit The Fugitive. Jones
reprises his Oscar-winning role as U.S. Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard,
who once again finds himself in wild pursuit of a prisoner that has
escaped from justice. The fugitive, one Mark Sheridan (Snipes), is a
former stringer for the CIA who has been set up by his superiors for
a deal gone bad. He's been in hiding until he can clear his name.
Unfortunately, a traffic accident lands him in the hospital, and
earns him the unwanted attention of the authorities. He's quickly
arrested, but (as in the original film) he manages to escape - this
time from the crash of a plane used to transfer prisoners. And thus
begins the mayhem. Robert Downey, Jr. also stars as a government
agent of uncertain loyalties, who is assigned to assist Gerard in
One of the reasons The Fugitive
worked so well, was the contrast between Kimble's intense
desperation and Gerard's equally intense determination to capture
him. And as an audience, we were allowed to emphasize with Kimble
(Harrison Ford) right from the start. His wife had been murdered,
his life was crumbling around him, and (as if that weren't bad
enough) he was being blamed for it all. Add to that the natural
sense of likability that Ford brings to almost every role he plays,
the caliber of Jones' performance (as Gerard begins to realize
there's more to the case than meets the eye), and some tight
direction by Andrew Davis, and you had the formula for terrific
emotional and dramatic tension.
Unfortunately, there's really no one in U.S.
Marshals for Jones to play against. All of the other
performances are as restrained as his own. Snipes (as Sheridan)
keeps everything close to the vest, so much so that it's not all
clear if he's an innocent man. This isn't so much a bad acting
choice by Snipes - he's actually quite good for the most part,
particularly when the action heats up. It's simply a poorly crafted
screenplay. You can't really root for this fugitive. There's even
one point in the story where he takes a truck driver and his wife
hostage, and holds a knife to the woman's throat - not exactly a
likeable guy. It's this lack of an empathetic character, more than
anything else, that hamstrings U.S.
Marshals. It would almost have been better if Sheridan
were truly a bad guy - you'd have at least some kind of strong
emotional take on him.
All that said, I can't claim that I didn't at least moderately
enjoy U.S. Marshals. Director
Stuart Baird has crafted some decent action sequences (although some
stretch believability at little). Gerard's rogue's gallery of
deputies makes for a pretty amusing bunch - their interplay and
wisecracks are funny. And there are just some moments in this film
you can't help but like. I can't say I've ever seen a 7 foot tall
chicken pull a Glock 40 before, and that scene alone was worth the
price of admission when I saw this film in the theater (see chapter
3). U.S. Marshals clearly
doesn't rank among the best action-thrillers you ever see... but it
does hold its own.
The quality of the 1.85:1 letterboxed video is generally very good.
It's also enhanced for 16x9 capable displays, but there's no pan &
scan version included. There are only a couple of moments where some
artifacting is present, all shots of the plane in flight before the
crash (chapter 8 - the shot at 15:59 is a perfect example, in
addition to being a pretty sad-looking effect). These are nighttime
shots, with lots of diffuse clouds and murky green-blue colors that
MPEG 2 encoding seems to have difficulty chewing on. Other than
that, the video quality, while not awesome, is well above average.
And the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is excellent. The surrounds are
well used, particularly during the plane crash and other action
sequences, creating a great sense of three dimensional space. The
dialogue is clear and natural, and the film's solid (yet restrained)
score by Jerry Goldsmith sounds terrific. The score actually
reflects the subtleties and determination of Jones' character quite
As for extras, this special edition DVD's got 'em in spades. You
will find a good (if short) documentary on the history of the real
U.S. Marshals, entitled Justice Under the
Star. There's another featurette, Anatomy
of a Plane Crash, that reveals the effects work and
planning that went into creating the plane crash sequence, from
storyboarding and 2nd unit model work to finding a physical location
to stage the aftermath of the event. I'm not sure if I like the need
to select each segment of this featurette from a menu, but I suppose
that's the downside of adding interactivity. The audio commentary by
director Baird is fairly interesting, and there are two theatrical
trailers (one for this film, as well as the original Fugitive)
and three TV spots. But my favorite feature is really more of a nice
touch - animated menu screens that include background music from the
film's soundtrack. Not bad for an SRP of $19.98.
Don't expect The Fugitive
here - this film doesn't even come close. But U.S.
Marshals is at least reasonably solid, with some decent
action and a few funny character moments. And with all the extras
included on this DVD given the price, it's pretty hard to go wrong.