It’s probably fair to say that when “The Fugitive” came out in 1993, people weren’t exactly clamoring for a big screen 60s show. even the director and star said they had never seen it. Even so, the gripping, clever adult thriller was a box office smash and earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination, the first TV adaptation to compete for the big prize.
The film was a satisfyingly old-school romp with its share of spectacular set pieces, but the highlight was the battle of wits between two very human adversaries. Harrison Ford, just a few years after riding off into the sunset as Indiana Jones, played a much more down-to-earth lead as a grieving doctor framed for his wife’s murder, while Tommy Lee Jones won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. dog lawman on his trail.
Despite the incredible success of the film, it felt like a very standalone film and never felt like anyone was clamoring for a sequel. Perhaps that’s why “US Marshals,” released five years later, was met with something of a shrug. Tommy Lee Jones and his team are back for a usual conspiracy thriller — this time chasing Wesley Snipes — and the whole thing rolls along nicely without ever coming close to aping the heights of its predecessor. It’s one of those movies that’s the equivalent of a bowl of chicken noodle soup: Demanding and comforting food for a day in the comforter or an evening when you can’t find anything better to watch.
Now, 24 years later and in keeping with the generally unsolicited nature of “The Fugitive” movies, I’m here with the “US Marshals” how-to article you never knew you needed.
What is happening to the US Marshals again?
“US Marshals” opens with some shady spy antics involving a briefcase in a parking garage under the UN building in New York. The delivery goes badly and two agents are killed.
Six months later, we find ourselves in Chicago where we meet tow truck driver Mark Warren (Wesley Snipes). After a car accident where he is found carrying a concealed weapon, a match of fingerprints identifies him as the fugitive for the murders. He cries, but no one hears him.
We’re also reacquainted with U.S. Marshal Deputy Sam Gerard (Jones) and his team: the open-minded Cosmo Renfro (Joe Pantoliano), the reliable Bobby Briggs (Daniel Roebuck), the fresh-faced Noah Newman (Tom Wood), as well as sharp newcomer Savannah Cooper (LaTanya Richardson). After a successful drug bust, Gerard accompanies his suspect on a late-night plane flight from Memphis to New York.
Warren is also on the plane and narrowly avoids an assassination attempt by another inmate with a James Bond style pen gun. The guy misses his shot and blows a hole in the fuselage, causing the pilot to make an emergency landing in the backwoods. Warren makes his escape and Gerard is quickly on the case, but a team of suits from the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) insist on taking Special Agent John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.) with him on the manhunt.
The trail leads to New York, where Warren, aka Roberts, aka Sheridan, reveals himself to be a former Black Ops Marine and tries to figure out who framed him for the murder of the two men. Gerard also concluded that an international conspiracy is at play and is also headed for the Big Apple. Can he reach Sheridan before his enemies finish the job?
What exactly is the conspiracy in the US marshals?
The central plot in “US Marshals” is pretty vague. Someone in the US government is selling secrets to the Chinese about how the Americans might react if China invades Taiwan, and the go-between for these shady deals is Xian Chen (Michael Paul Chan), an agent of the other side. It’s like the writers thought, “Well, the Cold War is over and ‘True Lies’ and ‘Executive Decision’ just made Islamic terrorists, so… how about something about China?”
Freelancer for the government, Sheridan was hired as a bagman without knowing what was in the briefcase. The DSS boss found out about the deal and sent two agents to intercept the delivery, causing Sheridan to kill them in self-defense. The masterminds behind the betrayal are DSS men Frank Burrows (Rick Snyder) and Gerard’s new friend John Royce, who fingerprinted Sheridan to make him the fall guy. Once Sheridan was on the run, they made sure Royce was assigned the manhunt to kill him.
Burrows is the first conspirator to be revealed after another failed transfer with Chen in a graveyard, where he is killed during a chaotic shootout. Obviously, there’s more because Burroughs is played by a generic character actor (sorry, Rick) and there’s still about 30 minutes left in the movie. Still, I was wrong when Royce was revealed as the real villain, probably because I’m so used to Downey Jr. as the self-sacrificing Marvel hero of our day.
The twist comes when Royce chases Sheridan to a nursing home. Newman catches up and interrupts Royce just as he is about to kill the fugitive, execution style. Royce turns and shoots Newman in cold blood, and Sheridan escapes once more.
What’s the deal with Royce’s gun?
My pleasant surprise at Royce’s reveal was quickly dispelled by how silly the next part is. I find it completely odd that the entire ending of the movie hinges on what brand of gun the various characters are brandishing, but that’s what it comes down to. Fortunately, the Internet Firearms Movie Database is on hand to help those of us who can’t tell their Glocks from their Colts at this point.
When Gerard and Royce first meet, the Marshal asks the Special Agent if he is armed. Royce hands over a nickel-plated Taurus PT945, which Gerard mocks and tells him to get a Glock. Next, we see Royce’s Bull when he confronts Sheridan in a swamp, and this plot point is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it: Sheridan grabs Royce’s gun and shoots Gerard in the bulletproof vest with it. Royce then retrieves the gun before Sheridan escapes.
Later, when Royce kills Newman, he is still using Taurus. During the scene, Sheridan holds a similar looking pistol, which is a Colt. We have never seen or heard of this weapon before. After Royce shoots Newman with the Bull, he later turns it in as evidence, claiming it was Sheridan’s gun.
Gerard now wants revenge on his teammate, and he and Royce track down Sheridan on a container ship. Gerard and Sheridan fight before Royce shoots Sheridan, this time with a Glock.
We then see Sheridan in a hospital bed while Royce is out in the hall bagging the Bull as evidence. Gerard arrives and examines the gun, noticing that the serial number has been recorded. Flashback to the previous scene, when he pulled out Royce’s weapon of choice… a nickel-plated Taurus, just like him.
So, let’s get straight to the point…
As one of the men behind the conspiracy to sell state secrets to China, Royce takes himself on the manhunt to silence Sheridan before he spills the beans, but is interrupted by Newman just as he is about to strike the witness. He uses his own gun (the Bull) to shoot Newman before turning it over as evidence, rather than saying that Sheridan disarmed him again and shot the marshal with it. Maybe he didn’t think that excuse would fly twice? And at what point did he have a chance to record the serial number?
It’s not entirely clear as the film shuffles in the rest of the plot twists towards the end. Whatever Royce thinks at this late stage, trying to pass off his own gun (which the experienced and observant Gerard has not only seen but commented on) as Sheridan’s is a pretty risky stunt.
After Gerard has his flashback, which the film presents as a big Keyser Sozer moment, he asks to see Royce’s Glock. Royce hands it over and Gerrard pulls off a really obvious switch, swapping Royce’s full clip for an empty one before leaving under the pretense of getting both coffees. This gives Royce the chance to finish off Sheridan, but wouldn’t you know it? Gerard wasn’t going for coffee at all and shoots Royce dead in the final showdown. The good guys win, Sheridan is acquitted, and America’s diplomatic relations with China remain intact. Hooray for the US Marshals!
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