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Andrew Davis: The '90s

Under Siege

The Fugitive (June 5/01)

The Fugitive still stands up today as it did eight years ago as the definitive example of how to make a summer movie right (heck; how to make any movie right). Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death. En route to the prison where he is to be executed, he manages to escape after the bus collides with a train. Enter Tommy Lee Jones, a crack US Marshall and his equally crack team - who'll stop at nothing to get their man. There are several reasons that The Fugitive works so well - an excellent screenplay, actors perfectly suited for their roles, crackerjack direction - but really, it comes down to Harrison Ford. He's the center of the movie and he's rarely been better. As Kimble, Ford has to run the gamut of emotions and usually within seconds (witness the entire interrogation scene as an example; he goes from shock to confusion to anger in the space of about one minute). I don't think that Ford got the credit he deserved for this performance (Jones' showier role received all the kudos and accolades, not to mention the Oscar), but would The Fugitive been anywhere as good without him? Hardly. And as for Jones, he is great in the role of Sam Gerard. This isn't just a cookie-cutter dedicated cop - Gerard is as good and detailed a character as any other that has emerged since. He and his team are going to get Kimble no matter what it takes and, as Gerard says at one point, he doesn't care whether or not Kimble is innocent. He's just doing a job. Gerard and his team are incredibly likeable and have a rapport with one another that's familiar and affectionate and snarky - all at the same time. And because The Fugitive was released as a summer movie, there is a lot of action. But - and here is the key difference between this and something like The Mummy Returns - the action actually means something. It's not there just for the sake of blowing stuff up; it's there to further the plot and keep the story moving. Director Andrew Davis keeps a good balance between exposition and action (too much of either would have been excessive), so it's essentially impossible to get bored. The Fugitive is one of my personal favorite movies of all time and for good reason. It's got acting that can't be beat, a script that's funny and intelligent, and superbly crafted action sequences. For pure entertainment, you can't beat The Fugitive.

out of

Steal Big Steal Little

Chain Reaction (July 2/09)

It's not difficult to see why Chain Reaction was received less-than-kindly upon its 1996 release, as the movie often feels like an attempt by filmmaker Andrew Davis to replicate the massive (and entirely justified) success of 1993's The Fugitive. The storyline - which follows two researchers (Keanu Reeves' Eddie and Rachel Weisz's Lily) as they're forced to go on the run after being framed for murder and treason - has been augmented with a number of elements that seem to have been pulled directly from Davis' earlier effort, with the scrappy FBI agents on the heroes' trail undoubtedly standing as the most obvious example of this (ie their similarities to Tommy Lee Jones' squad of U.S. Marshals are more than overt). There is, however, little doubt that the film boasts a number of extremely effective (and downright enthralling) sequences that ultimately justify its existence, as Davis does a superb job of peppering the proceedings with one impressively conceived and executed chase sequence after another (ie Eddie flees from the cops by climbing a raised drawbridge, Eddie and Lily use an airboat to escape some baddies, etc, etc). It's only as the narrative becomes becomes bogged down with increasingly convoluted attributes that one's interest begins to dwindle, with the subsequent lack of momentum ensuring that Chain Reaction generally only works in fits and starts (which is yet another reason the movie is simply unable to live up to the precedent set by its propulsive predecessor). The end result is a decent (but far from spectacular) thriller that's generally kept aloft by its performances and action sequences, and it's worth noting that despite its problems, the film remains a cut above most contemporary examples of the genre.

out of

A Perfect Murder

© David Nusair