Three Fugitives

Nick Nolte plays a bank robber in Tacoma who has just been paroled when he finds himself taken hostage by an inept amateur (Martin Short), desperate to raise money to care for his disturbed little girl (Sarah Rowland Doroff). These are the three fugitives in Francis Veber’s literal (apparently shot-by-shot) remake of his own French comedy Les fugitifs, which starred Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard. I haven’t seen the original, but nothing in this crude, mainly unfunny farce makes me want to. Short’s usually effective comic persona is lamentably milked here for Chaplinesque pathos, while Nolte looks like he’d rather be somewhere else (a sentiment easy to share); Doroff, on the other hand, is effectively nonsentimental in her mainly silent part, although the film manages to maul her talents as well. The gags veer from Three Stooges head knocking to dressing Short in women’s clothes; James Earl Jones, as Detective Dugan, starts out as an important character and then is absentmindedly forgotten; Alan Ruck and the late Ken McMillan also put in appearances. Haskell Wexler (of all people) is the cinematographer, and David McHugh provided the awful Muzak score. (JR)

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