MAD: The Fugitive
(1992 Warner Bros/Watched on DVD)
One thing about Warner Bros DVDs that I have always loved is their complete lack of pageantry before the movie begins. You just start it playing and within seconds you get the quiet, confident WB shield and you’re watching the movie. With Universal you have to choose your language (because there’s no possible way that modern players could just remember that simple bit of information and default to it each time), you get the Universal fanfare and turning of the Earth (a sequence so grand you’d think they were taking credit for CREATING said planet) then a menu, then a warning, another warning, a notification that the commentaries are not official Political statements on behalf of Universal, a little advert congratulating you for not pirating the disc, a warning advert reminding you that if you ever DO pirate a movie they WILL hunt you down and shoot you in the back of the head (which you wouldn’t have to wade through if you did breach copyright), five trailers for movies that came out ten to twenty years ago and you either already own or have seen or never want to see, another warning in another language, a menu with some of the film moving on it to make sure that those in the room who haven’t seen it know the best stunts before going in, a loading screen, the Universal circling of the Earth AGAIN, a few verses of God Save the Queen, an introduction from the director, a disclaimer that the film may not be any good at all, a seizure warning, the first season of M.A.S.H., Andy Kaufman reading you the entirety of The Great Gatsby in real time, a third Universal logo… and then the movie (which presumably plays to a lounge full of bearded, emaciated corpses).
The Fugitive is an unexceptional movie. It was unexceptional back in 1993, only the grown ups didn’t think so because they were fine with Harrison Ford’s post Indiana Jones period of playing uptight businessmen. This guy is radiating Hollywood charisma and he’s been restrained in a TV movie with a pair of quite good stunts involving a train and a waterfall.
The two most gratifying things to be found during Doctor Richard Kimble’s search for who set him up for the murderer of his wife (an upsetting scene returned to frequently) are the Doc’s almost Bourne-level abilities to craftily blend into the surrounding populace (though arguably a little too smooth, leaving you with scant tension that anyone will discover him) and Tommy Lee Jones as U.S. Marshall Gerard, whose narrow-eyed, drily humorous, dogged, stalking presence ups the stakes. This was the role that cemented Jones as a major player, simply for playing himself, the professional old sourpuss. When this inevitably gets remade they would do well to refocus on the battle of wits and wills between these two determined men, Heat style. It’s the best element in this and never really gets the time and space to develop.
The TV show of the same name ran from 1963-1967 for 120 episodes and since they could barely stretch the premise over a two hour movie God only knows what happened on the small, monochrome screen for sixty times that span.
It’s also a bit racist.