Three Fugitives

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lucas (Nolte) has been in prison for armed robbery. On the day he is released, he gets taken hostage by Ned Perry (Short), an incompetent, novice criminal who robs a bank (to get money for treatment for his ill daughter, Meg) at the moment Lucas just happens to be there.

Detective Duggan (Jones) assumes they must be in it together and sets about tracking them down. Several chases, an accidental shooting, treatment from a crazy vet and other capers follow, all the while Lucas trying to ditch his idiotic companion and prove his own innocence.

Whilst avoiding the law, the two form an unlikely partnership to help cure the silent Meg and make good their escape. They rescue Meg from the care home she’s in (with Perry nearly ruining the whole affair with his clumsiness) and flee for Canada, pretending to be a married couple with a son.

All appears to end well. However, in the closing scene, Perry enters a Canadian bank to change some currency only to find himself taken hostage by a different bank robber in the same manner he originally kidnapped Lucas. Because of this unexpected development, Lucas does not need to say goodbye to Meg, with whom he has formed a bond.


Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do, even if it means pairing up a pair of guys that would not normally be the first in your head to work well together. Three Fugitives combines the talent of stoic Nick Nolte and always funny Martin Short in an effort to recreate the magic formula that worked for Nolte with Eddie Murphy and Nolte in the 48 hrs films.

What is this about?

Fresh out of prison, former stickup man Daniel Lucas (Nick Nolte) finds himself taken hostage at a bank by would-be robber Ned Perry (Martin Short), and the cops — aware of Lucas’s history — naturally assume the two are a team. Before you can say “getaway,” Lucas and Perry are on the run with Perry’s 6-year-old daughter (Sarah Rowland Doroff) along for the ride in director Francis Veber’s fast-paced remake of his French crime caper.

What did I like?

Simple. Par for the course with films in the 80s, there is nothing too terrible complicated about this film. If you’re looking for a deeper meaning in your movies, then this is not the one for you, because the simplistic plot about a guy who is robbing a bank so that he has money to pay rent and just happens to take a hostage who is fresh out of prison could not be more basic. Even the way things play out is pretty basic. Every now and then it is good to just sit back and enjoy a film without having to rack your brain figuring out what is going on.

Chemistry. I cannot get over how well Nolte and Short compliment each other. The chemistry between these two polar opposites is the selling point of this film, especially when you consider the random way they end up meeting. Throw in Short’s young daughter who also has a great rapport with Nolte and the three fugitives will keep your attention, even if the rest of the picture won’t.

Long enough. Perhaps it can be said that the last few acts of the picture were a bit tacked on, and I won’t disagree with that. However, in the grand scheme of things, I found the length to be just right. It wasn’t too short and definitely wasn’t too long.

What didn’t I like?

Vader. James Earl Jones plays some sort of cop who, it is assumed, arrested Nolte’s character and sent him to prison. For the entirety of the film, he is more or less a Wil E. Coyote type. That is to say, at every turn, just when it seems he’s about to catch his man, something goes wrong. Throw in the fact that he seems to think that everything Nolte does is a crime, and you really wonder if there is something wrong with this man. Why, oh why, did they cast a great actor like James Earl Jones in this role. There are plenty of second and third tier actors that could have easily been better suited for it.

Common sense. When Martin Short’s character goes into the bank and takes a hostage, he ends up taking the biggest, meanest looking man in the joint. I realize that was for the purpose of the film, but what sense did that make? It isn’t like Martin Short is a big guy, he’s actually quite tiny, and could have easily been overpowered by just about anyone in that bank, but he just happens to pick the guy fresh out of prison. It just so happens that nothing bad happened to him.

As far as late 80s films go, Three Fugitives is one that many have pushed aside. True, it isn’t the greatest comedy, but it is entertaining, at least. I won’t highly recommend it, but there are sure to be pockets that are more than happy to check this out. If you get the chance give it a shot, it won’t hurt.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

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