Warner Bros. // 1993 // 131 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // June 5th, 2006
A murdered wife. A one-armed man. An obsessed detective. The chase begins.
The Fugitive was one of those rare summer films that stayed with you long after you watched it. There was no real lasting emotional impact, but the film has largely transformed itself into a bit of a modern serial, and is one of those films that you put down the remote for. The film made almost $200 million, and garnered a Best Supporting Oscar for Tommy Lee Jones (The Missing), who played Sam Gerard. Is the film still worth all the praise?
Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford, Air Force One) is a thriving surgeon in a Chicago hospital and is married to a high profile spouse (Sela Ward, The Day After Tomorrow) who periodically throws charity fashion shows. One night, Richard comes home and finds his wife murdered at the hands, excuse me, hand, of a one-armed man. Richard is arrested and convicted of her murder. As he is transported to maximum security prison (before he is scheduled to die by lethal injection), the vehicle that transports him and some other prisoners is involved in an accident, and he escapes. As he flees, Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard (Jones) and his team try to find the escaped criminals (where Jones provides a memorable line as part of his information to the local law authorities). But Kimble returns to Chicago in an attempt to clear his name. So there's the setup, and you know how the rest of it pans out.
On its surface, the film's concept is a little bit weak. I mean really, a guy runs from the law after escaping, how trite. But how David Twohy's (The Arrival) script is different is that he makes the Richard Kimble a de facto detective, heavily (and understandably) involved in finding out why this happened. The fact that it's all conveniently centered around events in Kimble's old hospital gives it even more convenience, but it also helps to give the viewer a relation to the events and makes them identifiable.
The bigger thing that makes The Fugitive worth watching is of course, Tommy Lee Jones. In his second collaboration with director Andrew Davis (Under Siege), Jones plays Gerard as a man on a mission to find Kimble and views any fugitive escape as a personal affront, which is probably why he's so good. Among the people included in Gerard's crew are Cosmo Renfro (Joe Pantoliano, Midnight Run), Noah Newman (Tom Wood, Apollo13) and Robert Biggs (Daniel Roebuck, Agent Cody Banks). Twohy's script also shows how Gerard pursues and the working relationships he has with his crew outside of the immediate pursuit scene, which is something this Justice had not previously experienced when he first saw this film when it was released.
While The Fugitive's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is preserved for this high definition release, there wasn't anything about it that I immediately stood up and cheered for in the technical department. Now, I didn't have the old version to compare things to, and the picture may look as clear as a bell, but the depth and detail that this new release produces isn't as apparent to me as it has been for others. The Fugitive seemed to be an early stage release for DVD when it first came out, so it's part of the initial group to hit the high-def beaches, too. But the Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is adequate, if not unspectacular. I was expecting a little bit more low-end and subwoofer usage during the train scenes, but that may have been asking for too much.
The extras from the almost anonymous standard definition Special Edition DVD are ported over to this release. Aside from a "new" introduction with Davis, Ford and Jones, Davis and Jones join up for a commentary that is rather one sided. Davis is the one with the information, and Jones doesn't really contribute more than the occasional "yeah, that's right." Separate featurettes focus on the train scene and the making of the movie, and they are quick, topical and pretty forgettable.
Crappy minimal extras aside, The Fugitive has always been an almost real-life extension of Ford's Indiana Jones trilogy, taken in another direction. The action scenes are great for their time (boy do they look dated now), the acting is better than you'd expect from an action film, and the "keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat" feeling is still effective. One thing I just thought of though; if Gerard's crew is so good, how could they lose a fugitive not once, but twice?
Well, it's a fun movie and all, but as an HD DVD, I certainly wouldn't think of adding this to my collection until some anniversary edition comes out that would better improve on the extras and sound for the film.
The cast and crew of The Fugitive are not guilty, but those responsible for phoning in the HD DVD release of the film should get sent up to bed without supper until they pull something together that's worth recommending. Now go get me a cup of coffee and one of them chocolate donuts with those sprinkles on it.
Review content copyright © 2006 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by Director Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones
* Introductions by Andrew Davis
* "Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck" Featurette
* "On the Run with the Fugitive" Featurette
* Original Verdict Review