Picks and Pans Review: U.S. Marshals

updated 03/16/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/16/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, Robert Downey Jr., Kate Nelligan

In U.S. Marshals, Tommy Lee Jones is well worth clucking over, and not just because he shows up in his first scene dressed as a giant yellow chicken, the better to disguise himself during a stakeout. A crackingly capable movie that's more spinoff than sequel, U.S. Marshals once again showcases Jones as U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard, the hardheaded, laconic lawman who chased down Harrison Ford in The Fugitive (1993). Unlike The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals doesn't quite transcend the action genre, but it still manages to serve up a couple hours of solid escapist thrills and chuckles as Jones and his loyal lieutenants do their wily best to get their man.

Their man this time out is a government assassin (Snipes, somewhat subdued) who, after being arrested following a routine traffic accident in Chicago, escapes when a prison jet on which he is being transported—shades of Con Air—crashes. Jones was also on board, and thus the chase is on, first in the backwoods of Kentucky and then in New York City. The plot is pretty much Xeroxed off The Fugitive, though in U.S. Marshals there are more questions about Snipes's innocence, at least early on, than there were about Ford's. Also, this time out the fugitive is given a love interest: Snipes's escape is aided by his loyal French girlfriend (Irene Jacob, fine in a skimpy role), a java-jerk at Starbucks.

U.S. Marshals, as directed by Stuart Baird (Executive Decision), moves at a crisp clip, deftly mixing gritty action sequences and jokey asides. The movie also smartly surrounds Jones with an expert supporting cast (including Joe Pantoliano and LaTanya Richardson) as his coworkers and installs the sternly sexy Nelligan as his exasperated boss. She tells him, "I love you, Sam, but don't think I won't fire your a—." Based on Jones's primo performance in U.S. Marshals, she won't be doing that for at least another sequel or two. (PG-13)

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