A while back, I saw the Fugitive. It was a pretty good film, but I unfortunately forgot most of it. A few scenes here and there to be sure, but my memory isn’t as clear as it once was. At least, that likely won’t happen much in the future thanks to these reviews! U.S. Marshals is a pretty good film and while it may have dragged on just a bit, it was a fun watch.
The plot involves a guy by the name of Mark Roberts who is injured during a car crash. He is then arrested and accused of murdering two American agents. Naturally, they take him into custody, but a plane crash caused by a would be assassin ends up giving Mark his chance to escape. He must now find out who set him up and clear his name. Meanwhile, U.S. Marshal, Samuel Gerard, has to find Mark before he destroys more people. He has no reason to believe that Roberts is being framed after all so he has to mobilize his troops. Tagging along by
request order of the government is a new agent by the name of John. (The Government actually went with John as the name….don’t they remember their lessons on how to be subtle?) Can the heroes trust him and is Mark Roberts actually guilty or has he been framed? It’s time to find out!
One character who is really hard to forget is the U.S. Marshall. Samuel Gerard makes for a very interesting lead since he’s very experienced and he doesn’t really make mistakes. By “mistakes” I mean both in duty and in character development. Samuel is just a tough customer through and through as he resists all distractions and stiff arms the government. If Sam had just let the government walk all over him, he definitely would not have been quite as cool as he was. He can also fight when the need arises as he holds his own against Mark Roberts. (Supposedly the latter is an exceptional fighter so that is major props for Gerard) Gerard’s teammates are not quite as useful or likable. I don’t think I liked any of them to be honest. I didn’t really dislike them either, but they didn’t really have a purpose in the story. You could easily cut them out and there wouldn’t be many changes. It would get rid of a certain rage moment, but that could have happened through other scenarios. In a sense, I’d say that I’ve been lucky with protagonists lately. It’s rare to find someone as good as the U.S. Marshall and I just finished watching a film where the President was pretty great as well. I’ve gotta admit that the 90’s knew how to make solid main characters.
Nowadays, it’s really just a free for all!
Mark Roberts is one of the main characters as well since he’s the one being chased the whole time. He’s a decently good character, but he’s definitely not as charismatic as Samuel. I don’t think he would have been able to hold his own film, but his scenes were pretty good. He’s definitely proficient in combat and he quickly adapts to the situation. It’s a good thing that he has some contacts because I don’t think he would really have a chance otherwise. It’s just him against the whole group after all. He does have one ally who helps him throughout the film. This is Marie and she ends up helping him out at critical points during the chase. Her role isn’t very large and she only makes a few appearances here and there, but at least she decides to trust him without calling the cops as you would expect from many other films. She never betrayed him and that’s always a good thing.
John Royce is played by Robert Downey Jr, which was pretty interesting. If not for the voice, I likely would not recognize him so he’s definitely changed over the years. As for the character, I’m sure that you’ve seen his type before. He’s the experienced professional that the government has added onto the squad so everyone resents his presence and he goes on to show them up….is what usually happens. The teammates don’t really mind him and while he is a professional, they show that he’s not quite as tough as the U.S. Marshal. He doesn’t play well with others and he always disobeys orders when he feels like it. He’s definitely not someone that you can count on. For a while there, he was actually a pretty likable character. By the end, he’s an intriguing one, but I’m not sure I care for how his character arc ended. It’s not really his decision that hurt his character, but the long theatrical way that he goes about making it. Just get over it and head to the next objective! He would have definitely been more impressive that way.
One thing you may have to question is the overall strategy of the U.S. Marshal. On paper it is a very sound strategy as they cover all of the bases and leave no stone unturned. The problem is the fact that he never seems to know what he’s going to do next. After following the suspects, they continue to follow them for as long as it takes. After a while, you just need to make a move and arrest somebody. By the time the heroes go to take out the villains, it’s typically too late. An example of this is when someone goes into a church with a suitcase…followed by another guy going in. The main characters just watch in horror for a while until they run in and the villains take the time to escape. Had the heroes charged through the door right away…they may have succeeded.
Another time where things got dicey was when the main character pretended to go for some coffee. I understand the plan and it’s a good one, but he took so long. If not for the villain stopping to boast about his master’s master plan and many other things, the U.S. Marshal would have definitely been too late to have done any good. It would have been Game Over at that point.
The film lacked closure in at least one way for me. I may have missed something, but it seems like one of the main villains actually manages to get away scot free. You’ll know who I’m referring to by the end, but he had a gun and he shot at the heroes for a while from the roof. He gets arrested, but the heroes admit that they’re toast thanks to politics. Diplomatic immunity is very real, but I’m sure that the heroes could do something. Show the proof and go through the military channels. Even if the government is shady, the information would have been made public.
As far as negatives go, I think the film may have dragged on a little. It is still my official view that all films should be two hours long at the very least and your plot should be good enough to carry you all the way. Of course, if your plot can’t hold out for that long, then accept the loss and cut some time out. The film could have cut out 15-30 minutes and it would have held up better. For example, letting Roberts get away after he was in disguise was one time too many for me. They should have just captured him and the exact same ending would have played out. We would have just skipped about 15-20 minutes where the heroes really do catch him. (We would have missed the sand fight, but I’m sure that they could have squeezed it in somewhere.
The Marshal’s boss could also be a little annoying at times. She keeps reminding the main character that he works for her so she can threaten him as much as she wants. She constantly reminds him that she doesn’t mind firing Samuel and she’s always giving him some kind of order. If she had been a little more helpful in the actual case it would be okay, but she typically isn’t. She’s just there to drag them all down with government policy. She only gets one hardcore scene with another politician and it was the Marshal’s idea.
It’s more of a formality at this point, but I’ll still mention the soundtrack. Unfortunately, it was pretty unmemorable and it was practically nonexistent. I can’t think of a single memorable tune and that’s always a bad sign. I wouldn’t really expect a soundtrack in this kind of film, but it’s still disappointing to see. A great soundtrack always has the potential to raise the film up an extra star so it could have come in handy here.
One more thing to mention is how the plane crew wasn’t very smart. One of the villains asks to go to the bathroom. Suuuuuuuure he needs to go…..that’s the oldest trick in the book. After they take him to the bathroom, the two cops leave to go talk. The villain has all day to grab his gun and head for the prisoners. Granted, the cops didn’t expect any guns to be on board, but they should have been paying attention. That was a pretty sloppy job on their part and they wouldn’t last a minute in Andy Griffith’s neighborhood.
Overall, U.S. Marshals was a pretty good film. It wasn’t great, but it was a fun watch and one that I would recommend to action fans or to people who like to watch government proceedings. It is more of a one and done deal though because this film has no real replay value. Films like this one rarely do since they rely on a lot of different plot twists throughout the feature. Why watch it again when you know everything that’s going to happen? It’s different for a film like Yugioh or the Avengers, but replay value doesn’t really affect the score anyway. (It would only hurt if I forgot to review this film and had to watch it again someday…) There’s definitely a lot to like in this film and hopefully you are prepared for it!