We’ve reached the end of August which brings to a close the vault’s month-long coverage of all movies baby. I had hoped to end the series with a bang, but like roadside fireworks, you don’t know if it will fizzle until you try it.
After a five-year stint at McNeil Island Prison for fourteen counts of armed robbery, Daniel Lucas (Nick Nolte) is released with a check for $1,740 in his pocket for all his work at the prison laundry. Lucas is greeted at the pier by his arresting detective Dugan (James Earl Jones) and Dugan’s partner, Tener (Alan Ruck). Fully expecting Lucas to slip back into his old thieving ways, Dugan jokingly drives Lucas to a bank. Dugan’s jovial grin disappears when he’s called to an in-progress robbery of the very bank he just left. With the heist botched, Lucas confronts the teams of police, not as the perpetrator, but as the hostage of the actual inept thief, Ned Perry (Martin Short).
I’ve discovered a lot of interesting facts about Three Fugitives in preparing this post. It is actually a remake of the 1986 French film, Fugitives, which was also written and directed by Francis Veber. It was produced by Lauren Shuler Donner who also, coincidentally, produced the recently reviewed Mr. Mom. Another coincidence is that Three Fugitives is set in Washington near Puget Sound, which is also the filming location for the other recently reviewed title, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Three Fugitives is the first feature film for actor Larry Miller, who appears briefly as an unnamed police officer. It’s the last feature film for character actor Kenneth McMillan who passed away just prior to its release. McMillan portrays the good-natured, albeit senile veterinarian, Dr. Horvath, who removes a bullet from Lucas while repeatedly mistaking him for a dog. Three Fugitives is also the movie where the always tough ‘That Guy’ Brian Thompson is credited as Yahoots Magoondi. That’s one awesome fucking stage name and the story behind it is one I’ve got to find out!
I found all these coincidences and trivia quite interesting because Three Fugitives isn’t very interesting at all. Having not seen the film in over twenty years, I hoped it would’ve held up. Either it didn’t or it did and I’ve just matured beyond its simplicity. Nolte’s top priority seems to be to stigmatize Short’s Perry by repeatedly calling him an asshole and smacking him into things. Short puts his talents for pratfalls and overreaction to good use and makes a believable loving father to Meg (Sarah Rowland Doroff). Well, except that he loved his troubled daughter so much that he’d risk abandoning her to rob a bank.
Ned’s daughter Meg had not spoken for two years before meeting Lucas. Her unnerving fifty-yard stare reminded me of a cross between the kids from Village of the Damned and Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense. Her first words, “Don’t go,” are to Nolte’s Lucas. It was as if she was speaking directly to Nick Nolte, urging him to stay with her because she had seen his future and it was not pretty:
After reviewing Mr. Mom, a movie about a dad worthy of both husband and father of the year, I thought a story about a loving, well-meaning, but misguided dad would be perfect counter-programming. Three Fugitives, with its mundane plot and goofy antics, turned out to be a more superb choice than I imagined.