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U.S. Marshals is a 1998 type 2 Spin-Off to The Fugitive (1993), directed by Stuart Baird. This was his second film, following Executive Decision (1996). Tommy Lee Jones returns to his role of Marshal Samuel Gerard. This time his co-stars are Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey, Jr..
At the start of the film a man gets involved in a traffic accident and arrested. He is identified as Mark Roberts (Snipes), a federal fugitive wanted for a double homicide in a Manhattan parking garage. He and other prisoners are transported to New York City by plane. On board is Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, an unwelcome assignment. Gerard was recently involved in a publicized incident of police brutality, and in order to avoid bad publicity for the service, his boss has him transporting prisoners for a while. In mid-flight, one of the prisoners pulls out a concealed weapon and fires at Roberts. He misses but the bullet travels through a window and depressurizes the cabin of the plane, resulting in a plane crash.
Once Gerard recovers, he notices a single prisoner unaccounted for: Mark Roberts. Worse, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) informs the Marshals that "Roberts" is actually Mark Sheridan, an operative of their service who murdered his fellow agents while selling state secrets to unidentified agents of another country. None of this really matters to Gerard, who really just wants to catch him. Meanwhile, Sheridan is heading to New York City on his own, intent on clearing his name.
Things become significantly more complicated almost immediately, as it turns out there's a lot more to the crime, a lot more to Sheridan, and a lot more at stake than anyone thought...
The film was a modest box office hit, its worldwide gross estimated to 102,367,405 dollars. About 57 million of those dollars came from the United States market, where it was the 36th most successful film of its year. For Snipes it was one of two hits in a single year, the other being Blade. Critically, it was mostly regarded as a by-the-numbers action film. Frenetic chases, gunplay and explosions are present. But the story is arguably paper thin and there is little depth to the characters. Baird would go on to direct Star Trek Nemesis (2002), his third and last film.
Tropes seen in Marshals include:
- Artifact Title: Unnecessarily averted. This is the sequel to The Fugitive, and both films involve Gerard chasing fugitives.
- It's mainly because this film is a Dolled-Up Installment, and was not originally written as being a sequel for "The Fugitive". Why they didn't call it "The Fugitive II", or "The Next Fugitive" is anyone's guess.
- Ascended Extra: Noah Newman gets almost as much focus as Gerard himself.
- Black Dude Dies First: Vincent Ling, the Chinese prisoner, is the first casualty of the plane crash via Explosive Decompression.
- Boom! Headshot!: Frank Barrows is killed this way.
- Butt Monkey: Cosmo Renfro.
- Clear My Name: The motivation for Mark Sheridan.
- Cool Guns: Gerard tells DSS Special Agent John Royce (Robert Downey, Jr..) to "Get yourself a Glock and lose that nickel-plated sissy pistol," referring to Royce's Taurus. It becomes a major plot point (a literal Chekhov's Gun) later in the movie.
- Cool Shades: Royce sports a pair.
- Crime of Self Defense: Justified. Sheridan is on the run because he killed two DSS agents when they ambushed him. Sheridan was making a drop off with Xiang Chen at the time, having been duped into being set up as The Mole.
- Character Development: Noah Newman has gone from a rookie without experience to a hardworking and dutiful Marshal who is the most hands on and intelligent member of Gerard’s team, barring Gerard himself.
- Da Chief: Catherine Walsh is a surprisingly polite example, having a good working relationship with Gerard.
- Dawson Casting: Noah is apparently just "a kid". Or at least a very young adult. He sure doesn't look it. Also, how the heck old was he during the events of The Fugitive?
- He was a rookie at the time, and did not have as much respect as he did in US Marshals.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gerard, once again. Royce as well, par for the course when you are played by Robert Downey, Jr.
- Demoted to Extra: In The Fugitive Remfro got the most screentime out of the Marshals, barring Gerard himself. Here, Newman gets this role. Remfro still gets some focus, but not as much as he previously did.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Noah.
- Diplomatic Immunity: Xiang Chen cites this after shooting Barrows in the head.
- Everything's Better with Chickens: Tommy Lee Jones may be the only person in Hollywood capable of looking badass in a chicken suit. Arguably, that makes his line "Regular or extra crispy?" much more effective.
- Explosive Decompression: When Vincent Ling fires his zip gun at a plane window while trying to kill Sheridan, it causes this. The first casualty, of course, is Ling.
- Fatal Family Photo: A rare example occurring with a Posthumous Character, but Royce mentions Kazinsky had three kids.
- Flashed Badge Hijack: Gerard pulls this.
- Flanderization: Renfro goes from snarky to a loudmouthed bore who says whatever is on his mind.
- Heroic BSOD: Gerard, after Noah gets shot and killed.
- It Works Better with Bullets: At one point, Gerard checks Royce's gun and gives it back to him. When said partner tries to use it on him, minutes later, it doesn't fire. Gerard had switched clips without Royce noticing, which he points out in the following quote.
Gerard: (takes gun clip out of pocket) "I've got yours, you've got mine."
- Karmic Death: Vincent causes the plane crash during his attempt on Sheridan’s life. He winds up being one of the only casualties of the crash.
- Killed Off for Real: Again, Noah.
- The Mole: It turns out that Sheridan is not the mole, but is actively looking for him right up until the end when he gives up and attempts to flee the country. The real moles are Barrows and Royce.
- Old Shame: Robert Downey, Jr. hated working on this film and called it one of his career low points.
- Posthumous Character: DSS Agents Neil Kazinsky and Sam Harmon, the agents who were killed by Sheridan.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Renfro gives one to Gerard when Gerard goes to kill Sheridan for killing Noah (Royce was the true culprit), pointing out that doing so is throwing away the law and Gerard is only doing this to make himself feel better.
- Red Shirt: Kevin Peters, the maintenance worker who planted the gun for Ling’s attempt on Sheridan’s life. His only onscreen appearance is his dead body.
- Retcon: A strange one. Noah Newman is depicted in this movie as being "just a kid", or a rookie. It's strange since, Newman's actor was 35 at the time of shooting, and was 30 during filming of The Fugitive. Also, in The Fugitive, Noah is not once referred to as being "a kid", and is also seen as being as competent, and experienced as the other marshals.
- Slashed Throat: Kevin Peters, courtesy of Xiang Chen.
- Stairwell Chase: This time, unlike in the previous film, Sheridan is pursued UP the stairs by Gerard and Royce.
- Starter Villain: Greg and Mike Conroy, the fugitives Gerard and his team apprehend in the intro.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: Royce is often seen eating a meal during stakeouts or going over surveillance footage.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Greg and Mike Conroy’s capture serves to get Gerard on the plane, and thus involved in the events of the film.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: L. Scott Caldwell's character Poole does not appear in this sequel. The character is replaced with a character named Cooper, and played by La Tanya Richardson.
- Even some of the scenes get this. The plane crash=bus crash (it's even started in a similar fashion, with a prisoner trying to escape), and Sheridan's escape from a building echoes Kimble's famous leap from the dam.
- Averted by Sheridan, who has little in common with Richard Kimble. Sheridan calls attention to himself more and is a bit more ruthless, though he also makes sure not to kill an innocent. Sheridan also has supplies Kimble didn’t, and his girlfriend is not dead.
- Try and Follow: Sheridan jumps off the roof of a building, using a rope to swing over to the 125th Street Metro-North station, then jumps onto the departing train to evade Gerard.
- He Knows Too Much: The reason why Kevin Peters and Frank Barrows are assasinated.
- Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Played unbelievably straight, even more so than in its predecessor. In the course of proving his innocence and attempting to flee the country, Sheridan commits numerous felonies, including kidnapping, assault, and even attempted murder (when he shoots Gerard, even if he did deliberately aim for his bullet-proof vest) of a federal agent. His girlfriend counts as well, for aiding and abetting him the whole way, and what's more, given that she might not yet be a US citizen, or even in the country legally; her actions could have resulted in her being deported. But when the movie ends, they're all strolling out of a courthouse with a few throwaway lines about how he has been "cleared of all charges".
- Perhaps the DSS wanted to keep the treasonous activities of the people who framed Sheridan out of the news.