Fled (1996)
Fled (1996)

Genre: Action and Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: July 19th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Kevin Hooks Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Stephen Baldwin, Will Patton, Robert John Burke, Salma Hayek, Robert Hooks, Victor Rivers, David Dukes, Ken Jenkins, Michael Nader, Brittney Powell

 


 

A

s a federal case is being mounted against notorious organized crime kingpin Frank Mantajano (Michael Nader), the key witness, along with the lead prosecutor, are assassinated at their preparation center in Florida’s Dawson Air Force Base. And governmental committee red tape finds the attorney general’s case further destroyed. Federal Marshal Pat Schiller (Robert John Burke) has a mere 72 hours to come up with another witness … or else Mantajano walks free.

“I ain’t supposed to be here.” During a prison work detail in Covington, Georgia, computer hacker Luke “CYBERTHUG” Dodge (Stephen Baldwin) defends himself from harassment by fellow convict Paul Milliner (Jon Huffman). When Dodge is stopped short of killing the brute by the less volatile Charles Piper (Laurence Fishburne), the two are rewarded by being chained together. Of course, they couldn’t be more different, immediately showing their gratitude by starting a fistfight that is fiendishly overlooked by the sadistic wardens. The commotion allows the bloodied Milliner to steal a gun, however, resulting in a shootout, an explosion, and Dodge and Piper fleeing for their lives down an embankment.

In the style of “The Fugitive,” a manhunt is formed, with local detective Matthew Gibson (Will Patton, taking the part of Tommy Lee Jones) forced to play second fiddle to Schiller as orders are barked and maps are surveyed; plus, dogs are deployed, helicopters encircle the area, and officers form a dragnet. Not only is Dodge blamed for the bloodbath, but it also quickly becomes evident that not everyone is seeking the truth or even stands on the right side of the law – and Dodge just might be the piece of the puzzle necessary to nail Mantajano. Also obvious is the gimmick stolen from “The Defiant Ones,” which finds racism, continual disagreements, and nearly comical brawls stymying the handcuffed criminals’ flight from the authorities.

“Didn’t you see ‘The Fugitive’?” In a particularly perceptive maneuver, “Fled” makes a direct reference to one of the films it liberally borrows from. But it follows that up with another reference that dulls the self-awareness. “Didn’t you see ‘Deliverance’?” And then even more follows. Fortunately, Baldwin and Fishburne are largely amusing together, while a considerable amount of effective comedy finds its way into their predicaments. This is fueled by oddly unconcerned hostage Cora (Salma Hayek), who gets carjacked, and then nonchalantly takes the runaways back to her house – which she warns is messy. It’s a good thing they’re not the malicious kind of crooks. With this level of buddy-cop shenanigans and Robin Hood criminality, the dangers can’t be taken too seriously.

When Cora transitions into something of a love interest and accomplice – far too conveniently – “Fled” becomes even less of a sincere thriller. But it doesn’t really matter; the characters and the plot aren’t seeking genuine suspense. This picture is more about comic interactions, likable protagonists, and dependably evil villains. There are no gray-area roles here. Even when violence and tragic incidents do occur, they’re not exactly of the gut-wrenching kind. Eventually, as if trying to incorporate a half-dozen common tropes into the mix, the film transforms into a total actioner (not unlike “The Net” from the year before) – complete with high-speed pursuits, slow-motion dives through windows, and smooth lunges over the hoods of cars – and then into a heist flick at a sporting event. “Fled” may be derivative of too many other properties to keep track of (the dialogue certainly doesn’t provide anything original), but it’s nevertheless consistently watchable (further aided by an escalating series of nonsensical set pieces and a laughably unofficial resolution).

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10