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|This movie won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones).||
‘The Fugitive’ (PG-13)By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 06, 1993
Dr. Richard Kimble is on the run again in "The Fugitive," a blistering adventure with enough rock-'em-sock-'em for six thrillers. A flurry of stunts, close shaves and deeds of desperate daring, it easily transcends its television origins to become a stylish pacemaker-buster on the order of "Die Hard, MD."
Harrison Ford, bearded and numb with grief, breathes new life into the role last played by the stoic David Janssen some 26 years ago. Janssen played Kimble as the Lone Ranger with a stethoscope, moving from town to town, but Ford takes a darker, more gothic approach. He's not only a good Samaritan, but the avenger of his beloved wife Helen (Sela Ward). Brutally murdered before the opening credits, Helen haunts him in fleeting flashbacks that only add to the sympathy we feel for him.
Heroes don't come any more sympathetic than Kimble, who is not only wrongly sentenced to death for Helen's murder, but is taking the rap for insidious health care providers that are violating the public trust. Then along comes the most lovable guy in all of crime prevention -- Tommy Lee Jones as the human hound dog that is Sam Gerard, a rigid U.S. marshal virtually addicted to the chase. And when it comes to the law, he's about as flexible as prison bars.
"I didn't kill my wife," the fugitive tells Gerard. "I don't care," the cop growls.
Beautifully matched adversaries, they are actually two sides of the same coin: One represents the law, the other justice -- and it's the increasingly intimate relationship between them that provides the tension. Otherwise, "The Fugitive" would be little more than one long chase scene, albeit a scorchingly paced and innovative one.
Shot on the fly by Andrew Davis, the director who came into his own with "Under Siege," the yarn is not only gripping, but ripping. Davis, working from a well-oiled screenplay by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy, manages to cram Helen's murder, the subsequent police investigation, Kimble's tragic conviction and the movie's credits into a prologue as taut as a villain's smile.
The story officially gets under way when the shackled physician and his fellow felons board a bus bound for the Illinois state prison. Still in a state of shock, Kimble has barely settled in his seat when the other prisoners shoot him and one of the guards in an escape attempt. The driver loses control of the bus and it swerves into the guardrail, where it teeters briefly before landing in the path of an oncoming train.
A man who values life above all else, Kimble saves the injured guard, then leaps from the bus with milliseconds to spare before the spectacular collision and derailment. When another prisoner offers him the key, he unlocks his shackles -- knowing, though, that he'll never be free till he finds the infamous one-armed man (Andreas Katsulas) who really murdered Helen. After narrowly escaping Gerard's dragnet, Kimble returns to Chicago to pursue his obsession. But the pigheaded cop and his crack team are soon hard on his tail again.
Inevitably Gerard comes to admire the cagey doctor -- perhaps even to care more about justice than the law. But he never loses his passion for the hunt. Less of a zealot than his TV predecessor, Jones's Gerard also has a keen sense of humor and an even sharper tongue. When his officers urge him to give up because Kimble is most certainly dead, Gerard snaps, "That ought to make him easy to catch."
Fresh and imaginative for the most part, "The Fugitive" loses momentum as it moves toward its climax. The plot also becomes gummed up by an attempt to give it political relevance by vilifying the health care biz. But this allows the heretofore mild-mannered Kimble to get in his licks and beat a bad guy black and blue, the Hippocratic oath be damned.
"The Fugitive" is rated PG-13 for violence.
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