THE TITLE IS Fled--you know, as in the past tense
of flee--and the movie itself has all the awkward, stilted hipness
of this funny little verb. And, like the title, the movie can
be difficult to understand. (My friend thought we were seeing
something named "Flood" until the opening credits, when
she leaned over and said, "Oh! Fled!") What is
Fled? Fled is your standard, ill-conceived, run-of-the-mill
action flick where one buddy is black and the other is white,
with a twist. The twist is this: The buddies don't really like
each other, and they're chained together.
Fled doesn't reach very high; as a consequence, its failures
are rather mundane. Every now and then a more interesting flaw
would seep through; something that disrupts the reflexive, by-the-numbers
action plot. This is a movie peppered with little annoyances.
Like, for one, Stephen Baldwin's haircut. Baldwin plays Dodge,
a hacker who's been sentenced to 18 months in jail for violating
the phone company's security system; at the start of the movie,
he's been in jail for nine months. He and another prisoner, Piper
(Laurence Fishburne), get chained together as punishment and almost
immediately wind up in the middle of a prison riot and run off--no,
flee--into the woods. The funny thing is, through all this, Baldwin's
hair looks great, because he doesn't have a prison haircut. He
has a $120 L.A. haircut.
I guess this is a trivial point, but it just seemed like no one
was even making an effort. Since so much of the action in action
movies is ridiculous, it seems like they should try to at least
get the details right--it's the Star Trek principal of
believability: Yes, its incredibly unlikely that every planet
in the universe would have a breathable atmosphere, but we're
willing to accept that as long as the characters live in a consistent
world and we don't see Spock's ear tip fall off.
Fled, though, does not do us the courtesy of creating
a consistent world, and for some reason this bugged me more than
all of its other faults combined. For example, at one point cute-guy
Stephen Baldwin gets stripped and tortured by Cuban drug dealers.
One of the Cuban drug dealers threatens, at first, to cut off
his nipple, which is exciting--but then, what he does instead,
is squeeze Baldwin's armpit. Really hard, I guess, because Baldwin
contorts in agony. But...it just doesn't seem like that would
really hurt all that much.
At other times Baldwin seems quite tough; he lands a lot of punches,
which doesn't really fit with his vocation of computer hacker.
Though Baldwin is painted as essentially a techno nerd, we never
learn why he's such a great fighter. We never see him do any impressive
hacking either; all he does is get into a chat room with his buddy,
which is something even my mother can do with a computer. (No,
actually, I'm lying; she can't, but I'm sure she'll learn someday.)
Fishburne manages to come off more smoothly than Baldwin does,
not only because he's a more accomplished actor, but because his
part is much better written. He is given hardly anything ridiculous
to do (besides being chained to Dodge), and he manages to bluff
his way through this movie with something very close to dignity.
Baldwin is not so lucky. His character gets stuck doing the
stupidest things. His girlfriend, for example, is a stripper,
and after we get to watch him watching her and her colleagues
perform for a while, Dodge gets into a fight with a fellow patron
who is referring to the dancers as "hos" (as I believe
the word is spelled; though some prefer "hoh"). Dodge
promptly accuses the guy of being a sexist, who "doesn't
like to see women in control." Please. Since when is an audience
expected to watch gratuitous tit and ass shots, then listen to
the characters argue about who's the bigger feminist? I suppose
a scene like this could be funny, but director Kevin Hooks is
too busy aiming for the middle of the target to let any campy
humor filter in.
If there's any life left in the one-buddy-is-black, one-buddy-is-white
action movie-with-a-twist formula (which I doubt), it can only
be as a parody. Fled comes dangerously close to unintentionally
being this very parody.