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The Fugitive.

Chasing, searching for and discovering secrets

An old television series doesn't seem a promising story source, but Warner Brothers' "The Fugitive" is a super chase movie. Yes, Dr. Richard Kimble is back, convicted of killing his wife (Sela Ward) and pursued by Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), while desperately trying to pick up the trail of a one-armed man.

It's easy to identify with Kimble, since you know he's innocent, and he is played by Harrison Ford, who has more escapes than he had as Indiana Jones and gives an intelligent, nuanced performance in what could have been a wooden role.

Everything has been cut to the bone. There are no obligatory sex scenes, and though the accident that allows Kimble's initial escape shakes audiences out of their seats, the violence is neither extraneous nor sadistic. Director Andrew Davis maintains a relentless pace, and the occasional comic touches -- as when a policeman, after failing to recognize Kimble in a hospital, motions to him to zip up his fly -- only deepen the viewer's involvement.

Of course, motivation is understandably basic when you're cornered in a tunnel and must jump into a waterfall to save your life. Amazingly, a high degree of probability is maintained. Ford makes a credible physician. When he gains access to a hospital, conscience forces him to risk correcting a faulty diagnosis to save a young man's life.

Instead of having Kimble, as he did in the TV series, run through half the states of the union, the screenplay wisely concentrates most of the action in Chicago, mixing spectacular night shots from above with shots of known landmarks, local neighborhoods and even an elevated train.

The resolution is something of a letdown. One thing I especially liked was the anarchic undertone: The forces of the law pursuing Kimble have all the new technological gadgets, enabling them to zero in on his every move within seconds, but are made to seem as inefficient as they are sinister.

Don't go looking for a classic, but enjoy "The Fugitive" as top-rate Hollywood professionalism.

Joseph Cunneen is coeditor of Cross Currents.
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Author:Cunneen, Joseph
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Sep 3, 1993
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