From the Vault: As the streaming space keeps growing, massive studio catalogs are becoming more and more available. These include lost and forgotten gems, so-bad-it’s-good duds, and just plain weird pieces of film history. And you probably won’t find them by waiting for streamers to put them in front of you. In From the Vault, Android Authority aims to rescue these titles from the algorithm graveyard and help you get more out of your streaming subscriptions.
The 1990s were a terrific decade for fans of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. The two were at the top of their games, no more so than in their joint project that’s currently streaming on HBO Max — The Fugitive.
The 1993 thriller is a high point of the 90s boom in mid-budget thrillers, following a man on the run and the cop tasked with bringing him in.
Check out why it’s a worthy title to rescue from the vault below.
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What is The Fugitive about?
The Fugitive tells the story of respected doctor Richard Kimble (Ford), who is convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife.
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But Kimble is innocent. Coming home late one night after performing emergency surgery, he finds a one-armed man in his home, standing over the body of his wife. No one believes his story though.
Then, when his prison bus crashes, he seizes the opportunity to make a break for it to seek out the one-armed man and clear his name. But he’ll have to evade authorities, most notably US Marshall Samuel Gerard (Jones), who won’t stop until Kimble is back behind bars.
A tense, efficient thriller
One of the recurring elements running through The Fugitive is an emphasis on people being great at what they do. Kimble isn’t lucky (except in one rather daring jump off of a dam). And he isn’t evading run-of-the-mill cops. He has to be laser-focused on the task at hand, evading capture while searching for the man who killed his wife.
On the other side of that equation is Gerard. The US Marshall is a no-nonsense professional who always gets his man. Gerard knows when he’s being lied to. He knows how criminals think and where they hide. And this isn’t his first rodeo.
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One scene captures how perfectly at odds these two men are. When Kimble briefly gets the jump on Gerard and has him at gunpoint, he asserts that he didn’t kill his wife.
Kimble and Gerard are different sides of the same skilled and principled coin.
Gerard utters one simple sentence in response: “I don’t care.”
Gerard hunts his prey with a cold efficiency that’s at once admirable and bone-chilling. He’s not here to solve a crime. He’s here to catch Kimble, and that’s all he plans to do. Kimble, for his part, needs someone, anyone, to believe in his innocence, and he won’t stop until he clears his name.
There isn’t a moment wasted in the film. It’s a tense, taut game of cat and mouse. No one’s willing to blink until everything comes to a head in the end.
Tough act to follow
The film wasn’t the first crack at telling Richard Kimble’s story. The original The Fugitive was a TV series that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967. It was a big hit and is also very much worth watching.
CBS launched a remake series in 2000. It wasn’t bad, and featured some solid performances by Tim Daly, Mykelti Williamson, and Stephen Lang. It wasn’t great either though, and it paled in comparison to the film.
Then the short-lived streamer Quibi gave it another go. The new series dramatically changed the plot, and featured completely different characters. A remake in name only, The Fugitive suffered the same fate as its streaming home and hasn’t been heard from since.
Maybe one day we’ll get a The Fugitive remake that rivals the 1993 film, but until then, I’m grateful for this manhunt classic as it is. You can check it out on HBO Max.