By Deane Barker

Fled is proof-positive that a well-done preview can make any film look good. It’s amazing what some snazzy music and MTV-like editing can do for even the worst of creations. They should award Oscars for these.

Laurence Fishburne and Stephan Baldwin are two convicts who escape from a road crew after getting caught in the middle of a deadly shoot-out. Turns out Baldwin is a computer hacker who stole $25 million from the Cuban Mafia and gave most of it to charity. He has a computer disk (doesn’t everyone?) which the attorney general’s office wants. Enter a good-guy Southern cop who’s trying to get to the pair before they’re done in by a corrupt federal marshal and the mobster’s grimacing goons.

If you think you’ve heard this plot before, you’re right. If the two convicts could only flee as fast as this film’s originality, they’d be in Bermuda by the first love scene.

The movie plows through all sorts of sequences that you’ve seen in other films. Our bumbling convicts run into a pretty caterer (Salma Hayek) who falls for one of them faster than you can say “romantic subplot.” The villains capture them, scowl at them, torture them, get shot by them, etc. Through all of this, Fishburne and Baldwin beat on each other so much you wonder why the Mafia even bothers.

The two leads don’t display much in the way of acting talent – though, let’s be honest, the film doesn’t demand much. Baldwin and Fishburne have sadly fled from their fantastic work in The Usual Suspects and Boyz in the Hood. All the other characters are right off the shelf.

Action sequences alternate between confusing shoot-outs in public places (because a gunfight just isn’t gunfight without innocent people running around) and chase scenes that could moonlight as tranquilizers. At one point, our two heroes escape on two bright-red Ducati motorcycles – evidently the fastest phallic symbols on Earth – but they still can’t seem to outrun a Lincoln Continental. The climax was so anti-climactic I was frankly stunned that the film was over.

Good chase movies are hard to come by. The Fugitive did it right because we actually cared about Dr. Kimball. Unfortunately, Stephan Baldwin felt the need to emulate his brother Billy’s equally inane entry in the genre – last year’s Cindy-a-thon Fair Game. In the end, Fled just made me want to flee (sorry, couldn’t resist).


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