Here’s an old New Yorker cartoon I’ve never fogotten:
easy fallback position is to pair those two qualities together.
But The Fugitive shows how much fun it can be to separate the two: U. S. Marshal Gerard could not be more determined to catch Richard Kimble, and the standard way to show that would be to render him increasingly angry and humorless. Indeed, on first glance, we might describe Gerard that way, but one closer inspection it’s not true.
What makes this movie so wonderfully rewatchable is the lovable-but-hyper-competent camaraderie amongst the marshals. They’ve discovered something that no other movie heroes seem to know: you don’t have to be grim to be determined. Indeed, one thing that makes them so scary is that they do such impressive work without getting upset about it. They’re used to working this hard, and they trust themselves to do this. This is a challenging day at the office, but it’s ultimately just that, and there’s no reason to break their routine. As it plays out, that feels utterly bad-ass...and utterly refreshing for audiences tired of lazy “first choice” characterization.
(By the way, I never saw the semi-sequel U.S. Marshals. Did anybody? Is it any good?)