U.S. Marshals is a 1998 American Action-Mystery thriller film directed by Stuart Baird. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by Roy Huggins and John Pogue. The film is a spin-off to the 1993 motion picture version of The Fugitive, which in turn was based on the 1960s television series of the same name, created by Huggins. The story does not involve the character of Dr. Richard Kimble portrayed by Harrison Ford in the initial film. Instead, an altered plot centers on another fugitive, Mark Warren (played by Wesley Snipes) who attempts to elude government officials following an international conspiracy scandal. However, some of the actors from the previous film who portrayed Deputy Marshals, reprise their roles in the spin-off. The ensemble cast features Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Downey, Jr., Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck, Tom Wood and LaTanya Richardson.
The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Warner Bros. and Kopelson Entertainment. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Warner Bros. and by the Warner Home Video division for home media markets. U.S. Marshals explores violence, murder and espionage. On March 10, 1998, the original motion picture soundtrack was released by the Varèse Sarabande music label. The soundtrack was composed and orchestrated by musician Jerry Goldsmith.
U.S. Marshals premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on March 6, 1998 grossing $57 million in its domestic run. The film took in an additional $45 million in business through international release for a combined worldwide total of $102 million. Preceding its initial screening in cinemas, the film was generally met with negative critical reviews. With its initial foray into the home video marketplace; the film's widescreen DVD edition, featuring theatrical trailers, an interactive behind-the-scenes documentary and production notes among other highlights, was released in the U.S. on July 22, 1998.
Two Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agents are killed while trying to intercept a briefcase exchange taking place in a parking garage. The murders are caught on a CCTV camera, but the criminal escapes with top secret information.
Months later, tow truck driver Mark Warren (Snipes) is arrested for an illegal weapons possession charge following a vehicular collision in Chicago. Through a fingerprint check, the police determine that he is actually federal fugitive Mark Roberts, wanted for the murders of the DSS agents. Roberts is put on a prisoner transport aircraft to New York, sharing the flight with Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Jones), who is escorting prisoners unrelated to Roberts' case on his boss's orders after a publicized incident of alleged police brutality during the arrest of two escaped fugitives. Roberts thwarts an assassination attempt by a Chinese prisoner with a zipgun disguised as a ballpoint pen, but the bullet pierces a window and depressurizes the cabin, forcing an emergency landing which leads to a crash in Kentucky. Gerard discovers Roberts has fled the crash site. DSS Special Agent John Royce (Downey Jr.) is assigned to join Gerard's team to hunt Roberts.
Roberts flees to New York City. There, he secures money, weapons and fake identification. Roberts also begins conducting surveillance on a Chinese diplomat named Xiang Chen (Chan). In Chicago, Gerard and the Marshals pursue several leads, including Roberts' girlfriend Marie Bineaux (Jacob) as well as the airplane mechanic who hid the zip gun, whom the Marshals find murdered by Chen. Gerard and his colleagues watch the surveillance footage of the murders in the parking garage and realize that Roberts acted in self-defense and was wearing gloves; thus couldn't have been identified by fingerprints at the scene as was earlier claimed. Confronted with the evidence, DSS Director Bertram Lamb (Malahide) informs Gerard that Mark Roberts is in fact Mark Sheridan, a trained operative that went rogue during an investigation to find a mole within the U.S. State Department that had been selling covert secrets to China. Chen was the contact delivering the money to Sheridan for the information and when DSS agents tried to apprehend him, Sheridan killed them in resistance and fled the scene.
Eventually, Gerard and his partners catch up with Sheridan in a cemetery where he meets with, and threatens to expose, DSS Special Agent Frank Barrows (Snyder) as one of the conspirators who framed him. Chen tries to assassinate Sheridan as he leaves the cemetery, but inadvertently kills Barrows instead. Sheridan flees to a retirement home followed by Gerard, Royce and Deputy Marshal Noah Newman (Wood). Meanwhile, Chen is caught and detained by Deputy Marshals Savannah Cooper (Richardson) and Bob Biggs (Roebuck). At the senior care facility, Deputy Newman overhears a physical struggle and walks into a room where he witnesses Royce holding Sheridan at gunpoint. Royce suddenly shoots Newman with his gun and later lies to his associates, claiming Sheridan shot him. Sheridan escapes by jumping from the building onto the roof of a passing train. Newman dies of his gunshot wound.
After retrieving fingerprints from an abandoned vehicle at a marine loading dock, Gerard tracks down Sheridan on a freighter bound for Canada. During a scuffle between Sheridan and Gerard aboard the vessel, Royce shoots Sheridan, injuring him. Sheridan is later taken into custody. Gerard begins to suspect Royce may be associated with the mole within the U.S. State Department when he notices a visual inconsistency with his firearm. Left alone to guard Sheridan's hospital room, Royce wakes Sheridan up, and attempts to murder him as Gerard steps in and kills Royce first. After leaving the hospital, Sheridan's charges are dropped as he is exonerated and released from custody.
- Tommy Lee Jones as Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard
- Wesley Snipes as Mark J. Sheridan/Mark Roberts/Mark Warren
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Special Agent John Royce
- Joe Pantoliano as Deputy U.S. Marshal Cosmo Renfro
- Daniel Roebuck as Deputy U.S. Marshal Bob Biggs
- Tom Wood as Deputy U.S. Marshal Noah Newman
- LaTanya Richardson as Deputy U.S. Marshal Savannah Cooper
- Irène Jacob as Marie Bineaux
- Kate Nelligan as U.S. Marshal Catherine Walsh
- Patrick Malahide as D.S.S. Director Bertram Lamb
- Rick Snyder as Special Agent Frank Barrows
- Michael Paul Chan as Xiang Chen
- Donald Gibb as Michael Conroy
Music and SoundtrackEdit
The original motion picture soundtrack for U.S. Marshals, was released by the Varèse Sarabande music label on March 10, 1998. The score for the film was orchestrated by Jerry Goldsmith and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Kenneth Hall edited the film's music.
A movie tie-in book to supplement the film entitled, U.S. Marshals: A Novel authored by Max Allan Collins was released on March 1, 1998. The novel expands on the ideas of the spin-off plot surrounding a new fugitive who was previously employed by the federal government for a covert operation. The agent must now prove his innocence from a murder case conspiracy and a miscarriage of justice.
Dr. Kimble is only barely mentioned with the note, that he has returned to his job in his hospital.
Following its cinematic release in theaters, the Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the U.S. on July 22, 1998. Special features for the DVD include; interactive behind-the-scenes documentary - Anatomy of the Plane Crash; historical documentary - Justice Under the Star; feature-length commentary by director Stuart Baird; interactive menus; production notes; two theatrical trailers; three TV spots; and scene access. Additionally, a Special Edition repackaged DVD was also released on November 3, 2009. Special features include; a closed caption option; interactive behind-the-scenes documentary - Anatomy of the Plane Crash; historical documentary - Justice Under the Star; feature length commentary by director Stuart Baird; two theatrical trailers; and three TV spots.
In supplemental fashion, a VHS format version of the film was released on February 2, 1999. A restored widescreen hi-definition Blu-ray Disc version of the film was released on June 5, 2012. Special features include; two documentaries - Anatomy of the plane crash and Justice under the star; commentary by director Stuart Baird; and the theatrical trailer. An additional viewing option for the film in the media format of Video on demand has been made available as well.
Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 27% based on reviews from 33 critics, with an average score of 5.0 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, U.S. Marshals was given a score of 47 based on 20 reviews.
Template:Quote box Barbara Shulgasser, writing in The San Francisco Examiner, commented in positive sentiment about the acting saying, "The film's pacing is unimpeachable and good performances are delivered by Jones, Snipes, Irene Jacob as Sheridan's loyal girlfriend and, for brief moments, Kate Nelligan as Gerard's tough but lovable boss." Left impressed, Desson Howe in The Washington Post, noted how "Every story beat is expertly planned and executed." Howe also reserved praise for director Baird, exclaiming how he "runs the show with a smart eye and a metronome ticking somewhere in his mind." In a mixed to negative review, Russell Smith of The Austin Chronicle, bluntly deduced that, "Unlike Kimble, whose innocence and decency are known from the beginning in The Fugitive, Sheridan is a total cipher to both Gerard and the audience until deep into this two-hours-plus film. Ergo, we can't be expected to give a rat's ass what happens to him — and don't." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, opined that U.S. Marshals was "Lean, tense, and satisfyingly tricky." He went further adding, "The Fugitive was the apotheosis of the 'friendly foe' genre, in which a criminal and his pursuer stand on seemingly opposite sides of the moral divide yet remain linked, through intellect, daring, and communicative resources, like psychic twins."
The film was not without its detractors. Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert voiced his negativity with the picture observing, "I didn't expect U.S. Marshals to be the equal of The Fugitive, and it isn't. But I hoped it would approach the taut tension of the 1993 film, and it doesn't. It has extra scenes, needless characters, an aimless plot and a solution that the hero seems to keep learning and then forgetting." In a primarily negative review, Mick LaSalle writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, called the film "a bad idea to begin with." He noted his confusion with the plot remarking, "the movie tells us from the beginning that the fugitive is not quite innocent. He killed two fellow agents in self-defense. All this does is muddy the moral waters, making us queasy about the one guy we like. At no point is there ever a compelling reason to keep watching." Describing a mild negative opinion, James Berardinelli of ReelViews professed the film's lead character as exhibiting "only a token resemblance to the character who doggedly pursued Kimball in The Fugitive. As re-invented here, Gerard is a generic action hero; most of the quirks that made him interesting (and that earned Jones an Oscar) are absent. With a few minor re-writes, John McClane from the Die Hard movies could have been plugged into this role."
Template:Quote box Dissatisfied with the film's quality, Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader said that it was "Not so much a sequel to The Fugitive as a lazy spin-off that imitates only what was boring and artificially frenetic about that earlier thriller; the little that kept it interesting—Tommy Lee Jones's Oscar-winning inflections, better-than-average direction—is nowhere in evidence." Stephen Hunter writing for The Washington Post reasoned, "It turns out to be one of those lame double-agent things where everybody's working for everybody else, the security of Taiwan (Taiwan!) is at stake, and it never quite lurches into clarity or acquires any real emotional punch. I didn't think the end of The Fugitive was so great either: Who wants to watch doctors fistfight on a roof? But by the time it winds down, U.S. Marshals has all but destroyed itself." Film critic Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide wasn't particularly consumed with the nature of the subject matter, declaring, "To every hit there is a season, and a time for every sequel under heaven — no matter what narrative contortions it takes." She later surmised, "The minute Gerard mocks Royce's 'nickel-plated sissy pistol,' it's clear they're headed for a cathartic showdown, and anyone who can't see which member of Gerard's merry band might as well be wearing a 'Dead Meat Walking' T-shirt really shouldn't be allowed to operate complicated machinery."
U.S. Marshals premiered in cinemas on March 6, 1998 in wide release throughout the United States. During that weekend, the film opened in 2nd place grossing $16,863,988 in business showing at 2,817 locations. The film Titanic opened in 1st place during that weekend with $17,605,849 in revenue. The film's revenue dropped by 32% in its second week of release, earning $11,355,259. For that particular weekend, the film fell to 3rd place with the same theater count. The continuing success of Titanic remained unchallenged in 1st place with $17,578,815 in box office business. During its final week in release, U.S. Marshals opened in 60th place grossing a marginal $16,828 in revenue. For that weekend period, Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks opened in 1st place with $30,576,104 in box office receipts. U.S. Marshals went on to top out domestically at $57,167,405 in total ticket sales through an initial 5-week theatrical run. For 1998 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 36.
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