It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“Fled” is a movie without a brain in its head, and it borrows cheerfully from lots of other movies, but at least it has the integrity to acknowledge its sources. In a set-up sequence, two convicts, chained together, escape from a work gang and plunge through the wilderness. Where should they head? Not for the state line: “Didn't you see `The Fugitive'?” one says. “The first thing Tommy Lee Jones did was set up road blocks at the state line!” Later, they mention “Deliverance,” “The Godfather” and “The Fly.” The convicts are Piper (Laurence Fishburne), a tough guy who knows his way around, and Dodge (Stephen Baldwin), a computer hacker who shouldn't have been on the chain gang in the first place. As they continue their escape, we learn background details. Dodge stole millions from a corporation that's a front for the Cuban-American Mafia, and now he has a computer disc that both the feds and the crooks want desperately.
Chained together, splashing through creeks and sliding over waterfalls, Piper and Dodge remind us of Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis in Stanley Kramer's “The Defiant Ones” (1958). But this isn't going to be a parable about blacks and whites learning to get along. To avoid that possibility, the screenplay manufactures two utterly senseless fights for them. One, in the middle of their escape, takes place in the catch basin of a storm drain--so they can splash a lot, I guess.
I was unable to understand why these two desperate characters, who had never met before, being chased by men who want to kill them, would be compelled to pause in their flight to beat each other senseless. At least the screenplay provides them with a durable cliche as a closer. After the fight, Dodge says, “Now we're even,” and Piper hits him one more time and says, “No... NOW we're even.” When it comes to dialogue, there's nothing like the golden oldies.
The movie is sort of a comedy, I guess, although a violent one. Some scenes seem to have wandered over from a “Naked Gun” remake. As they're running through the woods, chained together, Dodge complains that he's being jerked around “like a rag doll,” and (as helicopters circle overhead and men with guns and dogs march through the woods) gives a little speech about how “We got to run to the same rhythm!” Piper, so help me God, pulls out a harmonica and plays a little tune, to establish the rhythm.