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Fugitive: 20th Anniversary Edition, The (Blu-ray Review)

21 Sep, 2013 By: John Latchem

$19.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for a murder and other action sequences in an adventure setting.
Stars Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Julianne Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, Jeroen Krabbé, Daniel Roebuck, Jane Lynch.

There’s a moment during the excellent retrospective featurette on this 20th anniversary Blu-ray of The Fugitive in which Joe Pantoliano recounts asking not to be killed off, just in case there was a sequel. At this point, star Harrison Ford wandered up to him on the set and told him there wouldn’t be a sequel because he wasn’t going to do one.

Well, as it turns out, a sequel did come along (1998’s U.S. Marshals), without Ford but with the crew of lawmen led by Tommy Lee Jones, Pantoliano included.

Historically, of course, The Fugitive is one of the earliest films to adapt an older TV show, and one of the few examples of how to do it right. To understand why the movie version of The Fugitive has remained as well received as it has for 20 years, one need simply compare it to its much-maligned follow-up.

Both films involve a fugitive who escapes custody hoping to prove his innocence, while Marshal Sam Gerard (Jones) and his team of investigators are on his tail. In The Fugitive, that’s simple enough. Just like the 1960s TV show, Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) is convicted of murder, but takes off in search of the one-armed man who really killed his wife. In U.S. Marshals, it’s Wesley Snipes as a government agent framed for selling secrets to the Chinese.

Right off the bat, Wesley Snipes is no Harrison Ford. But another problem with U.S. Marshals is that the focus is almost always on Gerard’s side of the case. Snipes’ character is developed just enough to move the plot along, and things play out more or less as expected as Gerard, and the audience figures out what happened as the film goes on.

The Fugitive, however, gives us great character development all around, but because the focus is on Kimble, we’re more invested in the outcome. We know he’s innocent, but we also know Gerard is just doing his job, and Jones’ Oscar-winning performance makes it impossible to hate him. The chess game between Kimble and Gerard is what makes the film so fascinating. And all the supporting players are fun to watch as well, including the late character actor (and sci-fi veteran) Andreas Katsulas as the one-armed man.

Director Andrew Davis gives much of the credit to the editing, and reveals the rough cut presented events linearly, going through the attack and the trial so methodically that Kimble didn’t become the film’s titular fugitive until a half hour into the movie. The excellent editing cuts to the chase, so to speak, much sooner, and gives the film the meticulous pacing that makes it so easy to enjoy.

The retrospective includes other nice surprises as well, including reminding us that Jane Lynch and Julianne Moore had small parts in the film, years before anyone really knew who they were.

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