Based on the ads, “Fled” looks like it’s merely a rip-off of the Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis drama “The Defiant Ones,” but that’s not quite fair.
“Fled” also rips off “Lethal Weapon” and “The Fugitive.”
Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin (the blond one) play convicts chained together and on the lam - but unlike “The Defiant Ones,” racism isn’t a factor, nor are they joined for long.
Soon enough, they’re unlinked and engaging in a standard two-guys-who-hate/need-each-other crime drama.
What distinguishes “Fled” is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. There are a couple of running gags (one of which involves Fishburne’s performance as Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It”) and brief, jokey cameos by RuPaul and Taurean Blacque.
This light-hearted stuff robs the movie of suspense, but it’s infinitely preferable to another shoot-‘em-up in which Schwarzenegger acts like it would kill him to crack a smile.
Several performers enliven “Fled”: the lovely, spunky Salma Hayek as a woman Fishburne falls for (these movie escapees always have time to meet someone, fall in love and pick out a china pattern).
Will Patton is amusingly low-key as the only lawman in Georgia with a brain in his head. And there’s a brief, spirited bit with MTV’s Bill Bellamy as an eager fan at a stripclub (you knew there would be a stripclub, didn’t you?).
Director Kevin Hooks has an uncanny instinct for spotlighting the worst element of every scene, though. While the best characters vanish for long periods of time, Hooks makes sure each shooting death - and there are a lot of them - is in agonizing, viscera-splattering slow motion, as if it’s something we haven’t seen before and should be taking notes on.
“Fled’s” awful screenplay isn’t Hooks’ fault.
The plot is needlessly complicated by renegade U.S. marshals, Cuban mafioso, government witnesses and, of course, strippers. It’s so complex that, every 15 minutes or so, the movie pauses for a conversation that summarizes what we saw, an effect that is similar to watching “Headline News” for any length of time.
“Fled” also flees straight into just about every action-movie cliche, including the convenient rainstorm (although not convenient enough - Fishburne says, “Let’s get out of the rain,” and it clearly is not raining), the idiotic police and the aforementioned stripper with a heart of gold and a target on her forehead. And would you believe it? - the bad guys are all bad shots, but the good guys hit their marks virtually every time.
P.S. What’s with the title? The word “fled” is used a couple of times (“We’ve gotta fled”), with no explanation for the ungrammatical past tense. Maybe it’s a metaphor for this so-so movie, which seems destined for a short present tense at the box office.
xxxx “FLED” Location: East Sprague, Lyons and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Kevin Hooks, starring Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin Running time: 1:38 Rating: R