August 02, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
Stephen Baldwin, Laurence Fishburne, Salma Hayek, Kevin Hooks, Will Patton
Mystery and Thriller, Action Adventure, Drama
We gave it a C+

It’s tough to decide what’s most trashily enjoyable about Fled. Is it watching Laurence Fishburne and Stephen Baldwin having a whale of a good time as they punch each other out, shoot anything that moves, and zizz around on high-tech motorcycles? Or is it totting up the implausibilities, coincidences, and downright absurdities that riddle the plot like Teflon bullets? The two stars play Georgia chain-gang convicts who escape while manacled together at the wrist; this would seem to make them rather hard to miss. So how come no one notices them as they run through an Atlanta neighborhood in broad daylight, even stopping, charitably, to save a little boy from being smooshed by a truck? How does the sloppy, sly-basset local cop, played by Will Patton (No Way Out), realize that a crucial buttoned-down good guy has suddenly become a fire-snorting bad guy? And how in the hell does said bad guy get on top of a cable car for the climactic showdown when the last time we saw him he was miles away and shot in the chest?

Fled doesn’t pause to ask. It thinks you’re a weenie for asking, too. Directed by Kevin Hooks (Passenger 57), the movie melds a Hitchcockian plot with the latest pumped-up action elements, then sets the Cuisinart on puree. This being the ’90s, the MacGuffin that all the characters are after is a computer floppy disc (Baldwin’s character, a hacker, has lifted the financial records of a Cuban mafioso, and both the Mob and the feds want it); this being 1996, Baldwin’s girlfriend is — surprise! — a stripper. (And not just any stripper; she’s doing it to pay her tuition and to ”be independent,” yes she is.) A computer nerd with a bodacious exotic-dancer girlfriend: Did we mention that some of this movie was hard to swallow?

The trailers are setting Fled up as a modern-day variation on The Defiant Ones, the 1958 classic that chained Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier together as a sort of civil rights debate on the lam. Don’t be fooled; the handcuffs come off after the first half hour, whereupon Fled devotes itself to one goofy macho bang-bang sequence after another. Patton’s bedraggled charm gets lost in the testosterone, and so does cutie pie Salma Hayek (Desperado) as the one woman here who isn’t a plastic sex toy. Fishburne and Baldwin don’t give performances so much as allow themselves to be plugged into the machinery. That’s only appropriate: The movie’s a lemon, yes, but it falls apart only after you’ve left the showroom. C+

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