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Your May 2010 Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: A murdered wife. A one-armed man. An obsessed detective. The chase begins.

Pizza: Quickie's

Preshow Entertainment: None


THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. BEWITCHED. THE HONEYMOONERS, DRAGNET, LOST IN SPACE, DENNIS THE MENACE, DUKES OF HAZZARD, S.W.A.T, THE MOD SQUAD, THE BRADY BUNCH (twice!). Even CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? They were all successful TV shows that were made into shitty, sometimes really shitty, and sometimes even lower than really shitty Hollywood movies. The first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and CHARLIE'S ANGELS movies were fun, so maybe there are one or two little exceptions to the rule. But...there is one huge exception.

THE FUGITIVE (1993) is not only a film from a TV show that works, it's also one of the best chase movies ever made. It really is an express ride based on a theme as old as storytelling - The Wrong Man. In these movies, when someone says they didn't do it, unlike anyone on COPS, they actually didn't do it. You'd think the Wrong Man sub-genre would be played out (with so many Hitchcock films using it, even one called THE WRONG MAN), but it can go on forever as long as you have a terrific story to tell with great characters and whip-smart direction.

The last RMC screening was THE STING, and like that, THE FUGITIVE also takes place in Chicago, is 2:10 minutes long, and bore an embarrassing sequel, in this case, U.S. MARSHALS, with some of the same cast (not Harrison Ford, who was apparently wise).

Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) returns home to fight off a one-armed man who is killing his wife Helen (Sela Ward). On the surface, that's such a ridiculous scenario that you'd think maybe this is a Chevy Chase movie. Even the cops mention "the one-armed guy" to Kimble in a condescending tone. I mean, how many one-armed people are there? And out of those, how many are murderers? Come to think of it, that Def Leppard drummer is a little sketchy. But really, that's what makes it work. His story is so odd, who'd believe him? Of course, that leads to the invisible flaw of, Why would a really smart man like Kimble make up a story like that? Anyway...the directing (Andrew Davis), writing, and acting are so above and beyond what most movies hand us, we're okay with a one-armed dude. Hell, this movie is so good, I'd be okay if the killer had no head.

When he's taken in for questioning, Kimble is a wounded soul, his face a blank slate. He's failing to understand this tragedy. His wife is dead and a one-armed man got away from him. I'm sure he's thinking what anyone in that position would be thinking at this point: Why??

But the cops are thinking "It's him," and why not? It usually is the spouse. Then there's that misunderstood yet incriminating 911 call Helen made, and the fact that nothing Kimble says to the police leads them to think it's anyone but him. The next thing you know, Kimble is sentenced to death. Jeepers.

On his way up the river (literally, as well), a botched prisoner escape causes the transport bus to crash. On railroad tracks. Fortuitous, yes, unless you count the part where Kimble nearly gets killed. Still, he takes full advantage of it, and now, the U.S. Marshals are on his ass. He probably would have gotten away, more than once, if this particular squad wasn't lead by terrier-with-a-slipper Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Act Two begins with what some may call the famous "Outhouse Speech," as Gerard barks orders to his team. It's all we need to hear to know we're in for a ride. And so, the chase begins

And what a chase it is. Every step of the way, Kimble is haunted by sirens whooshing by him when crossing the street or his elevator filling up with cops. Compounding this is his risky move to look for that one-armed guy in Chicago. I said risky and I meant it, as his face is on every TV set in the local appliance store and in newspapers read by subway riders. He's going to find the one-armed man even if it kills him, and it just may. Yet as hellbent as Kimble is, Gerard is hellbent-ier. In a great moment of character definition, Gerard informs one of his men, Noah, in a creepy whisper - "I don't bargain." That came seconds after he nearly killed Noah just to get the bad guy. Another great example is when Gerard spots Kimble and shoots him, but Kimble is behind bulletproof glass (an action that, in the real world, would surely have Gerard sitting in an Internal Affairs office). In case Kimble was doubting Gerard's tenacity, he need not anymore. The ante has been upped.

Even though Kimble barely maintained his innocence (perhaps he'd done so off-screen) during the opening, he sure maintains his righteousness till the end. From saving the life of one of his prison guards to correcting the hospital chart of a misdiagnosed boy while Gerard and seemingly all of Chicago are after him. He even tells another escaping prisoner to "be good." How can you not love this guy?

And that's part of the brilliance behind THE FUGITIVE. It has us rooting for both characters. It's a double cat and mouse story, with Gerard chasing Kimble chasing the one-armed man. Along the way, they'll find themselves in exciting set pieces, like the St. Patrick's Day parade, the thrilling and realistic train crash, and oh my...that dam jump! It's almost like Indiana Jones without the serial hijinx and supernaturalism. It really is one suspenseful scene after another, including one that's a really fun mislead. Hitch would have been proud.

For Ford, THE FUGITIVE was the movie he made between his two Clancy outings as Jack Ryan (PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER), all plum roles given to a man who can squeeze all the juice out of it. Harrison Ford is nothing but fantastic here. Julianne Moore has a small yet important (and well played) part as a doctor who is suspicious of Kimble. Also on board, Joey Pants (a/k/a Joe Pantoliano) as Gerard's right-hand man Cosmo, and GLEE's Sue Sylvester herself, Jane Lynch, who's made a niche for herself as the smart and acerbic character (to me, she was the funniest thing in THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN), as a doctor who goes to bat for Kimble.

With real ex-cops playing cops (Joseph Kasela as Detective Roselli) and real cop killers also playing cops (Ron Dean as Detective Kelly, who reportedly, as a teen, killed a Chicago cop), this movie even smells like Chicago (I mean that in a good way). It was written by Jeb Stuart (DIE HARD co-writer) and David Twohy, and at least six other "invisible" writers...including director/Chicagoan Andrew Davis. Even Tommy Lee Jones had his fingers in it. It was his idea to respond "I don't care" after Kimball says "I didn't kill my wife." It may be the best line in the movie, which brings up a comparison with the original show, which ran from '63 - '67. Fellow RMCer Mark raises a really good point. In the series, Kimble, a small town doctor rather than high profile Chicago surgeon, storms out of the house after a verbal fight with his wife. When he returns, he sees the one-armed man and also finds Helen dead, leaving him racked with guilt. Similarly, Gerard too is guilty, because unlike the movie, Kimble was in Gerard's custody when he escaped. This gives both Kimble and Gerard emotional arcs that are missing in the movie (and makes what happens in the ratings record-breaking show finale really smart and cool). And though it would have been nice to not have these arcs stripped from the movie, it doesn't take much away. THE FUGITIVE is more of an action thriller than a psych story, and it's really well made. That said, I do have a coupla gripes, but you'll have to read through SPOILERS to know what they are.


Like IN THE LINE OF FIRE, both films feature two adversaries who are simply in it to win it. The bad guy would rather get caught than let the good guy have his way. And both movies end with a fistfight in a swanky hotel that somehow makes its way into an elevator (FIRE wins for having an outside-of-the-building glass elevator). But while I find FIRE riveting until the very end, THE FUGITIVE changes tone. Once again, it's a case where the story of a man and his innocence becomes bigger than it should, and what easier villain is there than a pharmaceutical company and the doctoring (pun!) of results of a new drug. It totally takes us out of Kimble's head and into some generic prescription Cinemax movie. Boo!

And double Boo!, because you can figure it out within the first five minutes of the movie, if your eye is a bit eagle-y. In the beginning, Dr. Nichols returns Kimble's car keys, thanking him for the loaner. Then they joke about leaving gas in it. Now ask yourself this; Why would a prestigious, famous in his field (he is a keynote speaker) surgeon borrow another surgeon's car? This circle of wealthy doctors/tennis clubgoers have enough money to buy new cars once a month. Come on, at least get a car service if yours is in the shop. Or use one of your other cars, which surely you must have. Plus, even if Nichols did borrow Kimble's car, why mention it in the movie? That's like a character saying, "Here's the twenty bucks I owe you." Why would we care? Unless it's information we need. Man, they almost poked my eye out with that red flag.

But here are some cool SPOILERS. When Nichols is being questioned by Gerard and crew, he says, "Richard is innocent." At that time, we think he is defending his friend, but he's one of the few that actually knows the truth...Richard is innocent. He's also asks Nichols if Kimble is as smart as he is. Nichols responds, "Smarter." And evidently, he was right.

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