Dr. Richard Kimble is framed for the murder of his wife and runs.
FINALLY, AS THE YEAR SLIPS SLOWLY away, a Hollywood thriller worth queuing to see. Crammed with highspeed action, lip-chewing set pieces and crisp dialogue, and character-driven by two big-time performances from Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive is far and away the most exciting adventure thriller of the year.
It was 26 years ago that the last episode of the long-running TV series from which this is derived was made, but the premise remains unchanged : Dr. Richard Kimble is wrongly convicted for his wife's murder, his story of a one-armed killer unsubstantiated. En route to prison, a train wreck makes his escape possible, and he is hunted relentlessly by a lawman named Gerard.
The brutal murder of Helen Kimble is gruesomely realised here as the opening credits roll, the first in a series of flashbacks that haunt Ford's Kimble and spur him on with his desperate odyssey. His adversary, Tommy Lee Jones' intense Gerard, is a pitiless federal marshal given to wisecracks and unbending in upholding the law. And while David Janssen's Kimble was the 60s version of the Western hero, Ford's man on the lam is more like a dark modern Zorro, compelled to perform feats of impossible daring, constantly courting recapture, yet unstoppable in his quest for justice.
The first half is arguably the more entertaining with its relentless action climaxing in the first face-to-face encounter between Kimble and Gerard. "I didn't kill my wife!" protests Kimbles. "I don't care!" retorts Gerard, setting out the imperatives, justice versus the law, that define their tense relationship. The second half, in which Kimble returns to home ground to solve the mystery, busies itself with an additional, topical but just slightly sanctimonious plot element of corruption in the medical establishment, a formulaic conspiracy, and enough fateful and fortuitous coincidences for a Dickens novel.
It's never not fun, however, and is seldom less than gripping. Director Andrew Davis, having paid his dues with Steven Seagal on Above The Law and Under Siege, proves he can play with the big boys and the big money, treating the clever screenplay with the imagination and urgency it deserves. This one has "runaway smash" written all over it
The performances transform this otherwise orthodox cat-and-mouse movie into a gripping experience.