Spin-offs and sequels are nothing new, but typically they follow the same hero through a continuing adventure (or new adventures). At the very least a spin-off follows one of the protagonist’s friends or accomplices. Switching things up to follow an antagonist, however, is rather unusual.
But that’s the (rather thankful) approach this week’s selections took. After the success of The Fugitive
, I guess producers just couldn’t let the movie pass without some sort of follow-up. Creating another adventure for Dr. Richard Kimble might have been a stretch though, so instead the attention focuses on Kimble’s pursuer, Federal Marshall Sam Girard.
I don’t know if writer David Twohy knew just what kind of character he was creating when he adapted a thirty-year old television series into a feature length movie. There wasn’t much doubt throughout a lot of the series that Girard was a bad guy, even if he wasn’t “the bad guy.” Somehow Twohy turned the character into a likeable antagonist who was sympathetic to Kimble’s plight even if he was on the opposite side.
And, of course, one can’t even take a look at the character without considering the brilliance of Tommy Lee Jones, who brings Girard’s sympathy and tough-guy attitude to life in a wonderful performance. This is a guy dedicated to his career beyond reasonable expectations, but also committed to doing the right thing. His devotion to his team of Marshals is envious. Even as the gruff “Big Dog,” this is the guy you’d want as your boss, because you know he’d have your back if you were ever in trouble.
Let’s hear it for the great Sam Girard:
“I don’t care.” Those words make up what is probably the most popular line for Sam Girard in The Fugitive
. Squared off against his prey, Girard doesn’t care that Kimble didn’t kill his wife – he just cares about catching his fugitive. But the truth is that Girard does care. He cares about making sure the right person is behind bars. He cares about his team, which gets a rough but efficient introduction throughout The Fugitive
. Instead, viewers need to remember Girard’s more appropriate line: “Don’t ever argue with the Big Dog, because the Big Dog is always right.” And that, Girard is – always right. He doesn’t attempt to catch Kimble because he’s an alleged murderer; he tries to catch him because he’s a fugitive on the loose. Even in the film’s final moments, which everyone pretty much knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kimble is innocent, Girard still has to bring him in. Still, the movie wouldn’t have much of a solution without Girard’s role, so it’s a good thing he’s always right. (BONUS: Even though they’ve already made a big deal of it on the show, it’s still fun to catch – look for the Scrubs
janitor (actor Neil Flynn) who appears in the movie).
As I mentioned before, I’m much happier to see the needless sequel to The Fugitive
follow Sam Girard and his team instead of bringing back Richard Kimble for another story. Although the fugitive in this movie is potentially more interesting than the first movie (a former special agent with sizable skills), the best part of the movie is seeing Girard in action again. The playful banter between his team that began in the first movie helps fill out supporting characters here, and Robert Downey Jr.’s role as Special Agent John Royce gives Girard some opposition for a change. Interestingly, as the story still follows the innocent fugitive quite a bit, Girard maintains his role as an antagonist, even if he is more of the central focus this time. Still, Girard maintains his status as the Big Dog and refuses to ever be wrong or back down. That characterization almost makes me wish there was a third chapter in the series, but for now these two make for an entertaining evening.
Other Big Dogs from Tommy Lee Jones: Men in Black
(but skip the sequel), Space Cowboys
Enjoy our Double Feature suggestions? and maybe we’ll use them in a future column.