Remember the old Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis movie, "The Defiant Ones," about a black man and a white man who escape a chain gang shackled together? It worked fine as an action picture, but it was also a parable about race relations, cooperation, and getting along. Well, forget about it.
"Fled" has its two main characters, one black (Laurence Fishburne) and one white (Stephen Baldwin), escaping prison chained together, too, but for altogether different reasons. This movie is simply action. And dumb action at that.
The story involves their flight from prison, their need to escape the law, $5,000,000, a much-needed government witness against a big-time mobster, and a whole lot of running, jumping, chasing, shooting, and things going bang in the night. We learn early on that the character named Dodge, played by Baldwin, is a computer hacker jailed for busting into corporation bank accounts. We don't learn too soon why Fishburne's character, Piper, was incarcerated. Dodge offers Piper half of the aforementioned five mil to help him once they've escaped. Seems silly. What choice do they have?
In the seventy-two hours covered by the film, the pair stop to beat each other up at every turn, play the harmonica, save a little boy from being run over by a truck, engage in high-speed pursuits, kill probably 200 innocent bystanders, and fall in love. No, they don't fall in love with each other, although that's about the only thing screenwriter Preston Whitmore and director Kevin Hooks didn't throw in. The story line is disjointed, the action unlikely (OK, impossible), the violence needlessly brutal. It's totally unbelievable stuff and nonsense.
The characters' continual references to other film titles like "The Fugitive," "The Godfather," and "What's Love Got To Do With It" are meant to be cute, but they are merely self conscious and self serving, making us think the characters believe they're in a parody of action flicks. The only person in the film who acquits himself well is Will Patton as a smart, amiable, maverick policeman hot on the pair's trail. If the filmmakers had made him the main character, the movie might have stood a chance.
Ah, but there are the compensating factors; namely, the image and sound, which are so good that some viewers won't even notice the absence of a motion picture. The image quality is as clear as they come and, more important, looks natural: Not too bright, not too dull, with accurate flesh tones. It's maybe not as perfectly well delineated as it might be, but there is a commendable absence of artifacts, shimmering lines, or graininess of any kind. The screen ratio is 1.66:1.
The audio quality is even better than the image. Dolby Digital 5.1 provides an excellent, all-encompassing surround sound, with effective use of the rear channels for a multitude of well-separated effects. There is also a thunderously deep bass that will impress the dedicated home theater enthusiast.
MGM include their usual informational booklet insert, though very brief this time; a few scene selections; English and French spoken language and subtitle options; and a trailer to complete the package.
It's not that "Fled" can be faulted purely on the action-adventure front. It certainly has enough of each commodity. But as I said in the beginning, it's dumb action and adventure, the kind Hollywood turns out by the ton every day. Anyone who has seen "Ronin" or "Heat" knows that a good, modern action movie can be intelligent, too. As an audiovisual experience, "Fled" is tops. As a story, it's the longest ninety-eight minutes you'll ever sit through.