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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

U.S. Marshals Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Ladies and gentlemen, be alert.  We are going to initiate a hard-target search for a fugitive in an ever-widening perimeter.  We will wade through swamps, prowl Manhattan streets, search every house and doghouse.  We’ll eat on the run, sleep tomorrow, watch our backs.  And since Marshal Sam Gerard leads the hunt, we will experience suspense, action and daring twists every breathless step of the way. Returning to his Oscar-winning role from The Fugitive, Tommy Lee Jones is Gerard, joining an A-team including Wesley Snipes, Robert Downey Jr. and director Stuart Baird (Executive Decision) to deliver adrenaline-rush excitement.  The suspect: armed, extremely dangerous, perhaps linked to a spy ring.  The chase: highlighted by an out-of-control 727, a death match in a ship’s cargo hold, a 12-story plunge onto a moving train and more heart-pounding sequences.  The movie: U.S. Marshals.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

U.S. Marshals is the sequel to its superior predecessor The Fugitive, with Tommy Lee Jones reprising his Oscar winning role as Marshal Sam Gerard. While U.S. Marshals does have some good action scenes and a larger role for Jones who is always good, it lacks the other reasons the first movie was so good: the star power of Harrison Ford and the crackerjack direction of Andrew Davis.  This time around the fugitive is played by Wesley Snipes who does a nice turn here and the film is directed by former editor extraordinaire Stuart Baird who has transitioned into directing movies with some being good (Executive Decision) and some that could have been better (Star Trek: Nemesis).
The film opens with two Diplomatic Security Service agents being gunned down during a briefcase exchange in the United Nations parking garage. Their deaths are recorded by security cameras but the killer escapes with the stolen top secret information.  Six months pass by and we witness a tow truck diver named Mark Warren (Wesley Snipes) get into a car accident which is bad enough that firefighters have to extricate him from his truck and in the process of doing so discover a hidden weapon.  Warren is brought in for questioning by the Chicago police and they learn that he is actually a federal fugitive known as Mark Roberts who is wanted for the double-homicide in New York.
Roberts is put on a prison transport plane to be taken back to New York along with other prisoners including some that are being accompanied by Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).  During the flight, one of the prisoners is allowed to go to the restroom where he constructs a gun from hidden materials and he returns to assassinate Roberts. Lucky for Roberts, he had already been quietly removing his handcuffs using a broken eyeglass piece that he stole earlier so he’s able to deflect the shot but it hits a window and the plane is depressurized and crashes.  The plane crash is pretty spectacular and it’s obvious the the filmmakers wanted to try to top the amazing train crash from the first film and they do a nice job with the multi-stage crash.
Once the plane has crashed landed and stopped moving in a lake, Gerard goes into action freeing prisoners and escorting them outside of the plane where the surviving guards are waiting.  Roberts manages to make his escape during the mass evacuation and becomes a fugitive which we all know what’s going to happen next. Gerard take over the manhunt after the inept local police struggle to get it organized and it’s not long before his team arrives to assist him.  He’s also joined by Agent John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.) who has been assigned to help track Roberts down.  Royce says he wants Roberts since he killed his fellow agents in New York and wants him brought to justice.  Gerard doesn’t want the extra help but decides not to fight it since he has too much to do to capture Roberts.
Not that it matters since Roberts escapes the perimeter and makes his way to New York City and manages to get some money, weapons, and a fake ID and starts his own investigation on a Chinese attache named Xiang Chen (Michael Paul Chan) whom he suspects is a spy.  Gerard and his team are hot on his heels and they track down Roberts’ girlfriend Marie Bineaux (Irene Jacob) who lies about not having had any contact with him.  The hunt continues and the clues start piling up that Roberts may not have actually done the crime he was accused of.  After watching United Nations surveillance footage at the scene of the crime, Gerard notices that Roberts appeared to have been acting in self-defense and that he was wearing gloves which meant that the fingerprints that were supposedly found at the scene (and used to implicate Roberts) was an attempt to frame Roberts for the double-homicide.  Once again, Gerard is chasing an innocent man but this time there is a dangerous mole somewhere that is doing everything they can to cover their tracks and eliminate all loose ends such as Mark Roberts.
Having loved The Fugitive, I was happy to see a sequel from that made with Tommy Lee Jones, but I wish Harrison Ford had been included even though I’m perfectly aware of how difficult that would have been to pull off considering how the first one ended.  This time around it’s Wesley Snipes on the run and he does a perfectly fine job in the role, but he lacks the star power and charisma of Ford.  In fact, his character is almost a blank slate throughout the movie and because he has the training to evade the law, it makes it even less suspenseful.  Ford’s character of Richard Kimble was simply a doctor who was out of his element and had to think on his feet and improvise.  Snipes’ character is a stone cold professional that doesn’t have to sweat much which removes a lot of the suspense and drama automatically.  That leaves the bulk of the movie on Tommy Lee Jones’ able shoulders.  Here, he is just as good as he was in the first one (which won him an Oscar) but he doesn’t have the great lines that he did in the first one. His team is used more in this film than the previous one, but not as effectively.  Joey Pantoliano is fun as Cosmo once again but there isn’t much for him to do.  An impossibly young looking Robert Downey Jr. is also great in his role as the cocky young agent who has his own agenda.  U.S. Marshals is an enjoyable action film with some great set-pieces but it doesn’t stand a chance when compared with the first film.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks very nice on Blu-ray and it’s a lot better than the previous DVD release’s quality. Colors are distinct and varied, especially during the manhunt in the swamp after the plane crash.  Detail is excellent all around as you can see the many textures of the clothes and the swamp area as well as Tommy Lee Jones’ every hair and wrinkle in great detail.  Flesh tones are decent but are a touch on the warm side while black levels are solid and dark.  This transfer has been cleaned up nicely especially the noise that was present in the earlier release. Overall, this is a great transfer but not a perfect one, but it’s acceptable for an older catalog title like this one.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

U.S. Marshals’ DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a powerful one that has really ramped up the sound of the effects and created a very lively mix.  There are times when the dialogue is somewhat drowned out by all of that goodness which is a shame but it doesn’t happen too often.  The rear channels provide some nice directionality when it comes to the sound effects and ambiance.  For every car crash, gunshot, or plane crash, it all sounds incredible and you’ll feel it. The LFE channel kicks into gear frequently and does it well.  I also enjoyed Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the film and how he incorporated some small cues from the first film.  I would have rated this mix even higher if it weren’t for the lost dialogue, but I am still happy with this mix overall and somewhat surprised by how good it is.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 

There isn’t a ton of extras on here but more than I would have expected for a non-anniversary catalog release.  None of these extras are in high definition.
  • Commentary by Director Stuart Baird: Stuart Baird is one of the world’s best editors, but he definitely isn’t one of the best extemporaneous speakers.  His commentary is full of long silent breaks where he seems to be lost watching the movie and only occasionally offering a tidbit or an observation.  Even when he does talk it really isn’t that interesting so I’d advise most people to skip this one unless you are a die-hard fan of the movie.
  • Anatomy of the Plane Crash - An almost thirteen minute look at the breakdown of the plane crash divided into short featurettes.  You can select “play all”  to save some time.  The featurettes included are: “The Crash: A Five-Act Play,” “Model Airplanes,” “Exterior Sets,” “Interior Sets,” “Landing Locations,” “Escape Under Water,” “Crash Research,” “Miniature Road,” and “Crash for Crash: “U.S. Marshals” vs. “The Fugitive.”  These are all worth checking out and offer an abbreviated but insightful look into the movie’s biggest set-piece.
  • Justice Under the Star  – In an almost twenty minute featurette that would be more at home on the History Channel than in this movie, there’s featurette that’s devoted to the history of the U.S. Marshal’s Service as portrayed in the movies as well as the truth of it in real life too.  In another strange movie, after the featurette you get to watch trailers for John Wayne’s Cahill U.S. Marshal and Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp.  I’m guessing that they are both Warner Brothers movies too.  Either way, I’m always happy to watch anything with John Wayne.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

While not as good as The Fugitive, this movie is still fun and has some great action in it as well as another great turn by Tommy Lee Jones as the unrelenting Marshal Sam Gerard.  It’s also great to see Robert Downey Jr. and Wesley Snipes in supporting roles and their interaction with Jones. Stuart Baird does a decent job directing the movie but the script could have been better.  This Blu-ray offers a lot better audio and video quality over the previous releases so if you are fan of the movie or if you’ve never seen it, I’d recommend picking this up on Blu-ray!
Order your copy today!

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