Quibi didn’t interest me when I first learned about it– series and movies broken down into 10-minute (or less) segments and doled out by the day. And not only that, but series and movies designed for watching on a phone– that part I really didn’t like. I’m old school that way (and/or maybe just old, period). I much prefer to actually see what I’m looking at. Then add to all that the fact that it’s yet another streaming service that has to be paid for. Now, if you’re like me, not only are you paying every month for satellite service, but you’re also shelling out for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and whatever other subscription-based streamers one has to have in order to see, well, anything anymore. And those fees add up quick.

So like I said, I wasn’t interested in Quibi – until I heard about their new retelling of The Fugitive, featuring Boyd Holbrook (The Predator, Narcos) and Kiefer Sutherland, one of my very favorite actors of all time. Not to mention that the The Fugitive is a terrific story (originally a series from 1963 – 1967 and then the amazing 1993 movie with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones) that involves tons of action, my other favorite thing.

Sigh. Okay, fine. Sign me up.

Malcolm Goodwin, Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

Malcolm Goodwin, Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

So our story begins in L.A., at a small accounting firm where our soon-to-be hero, Mike Ferro (Holbrook) tries to tell his used car salesman client (Jarvis W. George) as nicely as possible that he won’t be getting a refund this year. The salesman insists on pushing through some less-than-legitimate write-offs, but Mike warns him against it– truthfully admitting to the guy that he’s been to jail. Then, of course, salesman guy immediately recognizes Mike as “that-guy-who-got-busted-for-that-thing” a few years back and starts making a scene. The boss swoops in to do damage control and shoos Mike away. Afterwards, boss man fires Mike on the spot, saying that “people don’t trust ex-cons.”

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Mike meets with his parole officer, Kevin Lawson (Malcolm Goodwin), who lets him know that he had to write him up for losing his job, and reminds him that he’s behind on settlement payments. Mike understandably complains that not only did he go to jail for something he didn’t do, but now that he’s out he’s still paying for it. Lawson tries to cheer Mike up by giving him a pocketknife, which Lawson says his father gave him after he reached six months of sobriety. He reminds Mike that he’s been out for six months and says he’s been on the job long enough to know bad men, and that Mike isn’t one of them. So tomorrow, he says, Mike will head out with him and look for another job.

Mike goes home to his wife, Allison (Natalie Martinez), who’s going to be heading out of town in the morning on a business trip. Mike says he’s worried about having to handle their nine-year old daughter, Pearl (Keilani Arellane). She’s been distant with Mike since he came home. Allison says he was gone for three years, and that her therapist says she needs time to adjust. The next morning Mike walks Pearl to school, suggesting they go to the movies while Mom’s away. But Pearl’s not having any of it – she won’t even hug him goodbye, saying, “You left us.” Mike tries explaining to her that he had to take the plea deal, otherwise they would’ve been wiped out financially. But a sullen Pearl doesn’t care about any of that adult stuff and just sulks off to class.

Mike rides the subway with Lawson, telling him about Pearl. Lawson just says the same thing Allison did, the kid needs time. Then he comments on Mike’s much more casual look for his next interview– as a warehouse laborer. Mike puts on his best positive face, accepting the fact that he’s got to just take whatever job he can get as he gets off the train. Lawson wishes him luck as the doors close, and as the train pulls out and Mike walks away on his cell phone, the train blows up.

A stunned Mike wakes up moments later and wanders through the destruction, seeing bodies everywhere. He goes into the train to look for Lawson, only to find him dead. Mike stumbles away and helps a woman pinned under some wreckage as first responders begin showing up. Mike tries to get back into the train to get to Lawson, but a firefighter sends him topside. Mike walks with another survivor, asking to use his phone – but the cell service is overloaded. The other guy says, “This is just like 9/11.”

Genesis Rodriguez, Kiefer Sutherland in The Fugitive

Genesis Rodriguez, Kiefer Sutherland in The Fugitive

Cut to LAPD’s Counter Terrorism Bureau, where Clay “Boss” Bryce (Sutherland) strides into the chaotic office and lays down the law for the posse of padawans under his command. While he rattles off an awfully Tommy Lee Jones-like, rapid-fire spiel, we learn a few things: one, the bomb was detonated remotely; two, no one’s claimed responsibility; three, Clay Bryce is a crusty old salt whose wife died in the 9/11 attacks. When his number one padawan, Det. Sloane Womack (Genesis Rodriguez), tries to ask him if he wants to talk about any possible issues he might have working the bombing, he says, “First of all, it’s none of your business. Second of all, it’s none of your f**king business.” Wow. There’s a zinger for you.

Anyway, next up we meet Pritti Patel (Tiya Sircar), a reporter for a TMZ-type “news” company called The Daily Score. As she stands on the street recording miscellaneous law enforcement vehicles speeding past, she tweets about the FBI possibly pursuing a suspect. As she heads over to L.A. Transit to dig up more intel, her boss, Jerry (Glenn Howerton), calls her and reams her for letting the tweet go without confirmation. But Pritti’s just like, facts-schmacts as the call drops. She then ambushes a poor IT geek, begging for access to the CCTV footage. He’s reluctant but falls for her big brown eyes and pretty please.

As they watch the footage, Bryce and his padawans are in their office watching it too. Everyone scans the footage for possible suspects– anyone with a bag or backpack. Bryce spots a guy in jeans and a dark hoodie getting on the train with a bag. Unfortunately, there’s also a guy in a clown suit with a bunch of balloons blocking the view inside the car. They think they’ve found hoodie guy again when they switch angles, but it turns out to be Mike, and he’s got no bag. Bryce and Pritti assume that he’s dumped it, and as they watch Mike get off the train and get on his phone, they assume it’s their guy detonating the bomb. They get a closer look at the footage, and everyone immediately recognizes hoodie guy as none other than Michaelangelo (yes, that’s really his name) Ferro.

Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

Meanwhile, a dazed Mike stands in line at an ER, as a cop brings in a woman with an injured eye. The nurse tries to turn them away, saying they’re at capacity, but then Mike, being the nice guy he is, says she can go ahead of him since his injured arm isn’t as serious. And while that’s going on, Pritti’s on the street trying to get video of the scene, but she can’t get past the police barricade and the all the other people recording video on their phones. Jerry calls her as she ducks into the closest building and cuts through. She assures him that she’s “got this” as Jerry wails on her for having to do damage control on that last tweet.

But our intrepid reporter’s undeterred, hanging up on him as she messes up her hair and drums up some tears. She approaches an EMT in front of the tent holding the dead bodies and begs to be let in to look for her “husband.” And of course, the EMT buys her terrible acting job and not only lets her in, but leaves her alone so Pritti can get Lawson’s information.

Back at LAPD, a tech examines Mike’s busted phone recovered from the site. She tells Bryce it’s basically useless, but she was able to retrieve a text that Mike was apparently typing at the time of the blast, but did not actually send. All it says is, “Kill it all.” Bryce asks who the text was meant for, and she reveals that it was going to Allison, who’s in Chicago when a couple of FBI agents show up and very publicly haul her away.

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Bryce then heads out with his top padawans, Womack and Stamell (Daniel David Stewart), who tells Bryce that the mayor wants him to talk to the press. Bryce says no and “f**k no,” and Stamell protests, saying that people need information – they’re scared and just watched people “get their heads blown outta their a**es”– an insensitive comment to someone whose spouse died on 9/11. Padawan Stamell makes a stuttery apology, and Bryce just waves him off.

Meanwhile, Pritti’s back at the Daily Score office getting info from one of their interns about Kevin Lawson. They find out that he was Mike Ferro’s parole officer and just wrote him up for losing his job. And it only takes a few seconds for Pritti to spin a juicy narrative: that Ferro snapped after finding out about the write-up and killed Lawson by blowing up the whole train, because that makes sense. But it’s obvious that she’s not at all concerned about responsible reporting.

And while Bryce is doing his best imitation of Tommy Lee Jones’ “warehouse, farmhouse, hen house, outhouse or doghouse” speech, telling everyone to make sure none of their intel gets leaked to the press, Pritti takes it upon herself to tweet what little she thinks she knows. And next thing we know, bam– it’s gone viral and is all over the network news.

Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

Boyd Holbrook in The Fugitive

Mike comes out of the ER bathroom after patching himself up to find his picture on TV and on the phones and tablets of everybody in the waiting room. The TV reporter tells Mike’s sad tale: three years prior, he was the drunk driver in a fatal accident that killed his brother and his brother’s girlfriend, who just happened to be a good friend of the mayor. That made Mike’s arrest and trial big news, and it became known as the “hedge-fund-hangover” story. The cop spots him, and as soon as he tells Mike to freeze, he bolts… and officially becomes The Fugitive.

***

So what’s the verdict? Well, based on these first few “bites,” I’d say I’m pretty mixed. The action is good, and the whole thing has a feature-quality scope to it, which is also good. But watching it on a phone just doesn’t do it justice. If you’re gonna watch this thing, at least bump it up to a laptop. The material really deserves a bigger screen.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the writing leaves a lot to be desired. The performances overall lean dangerously toward being broad, then add to that dialogue that’s trying way too hard to sound cool. Most of that dialogue comes from Kiefer’s Clay Bryce, and though he does his solid, reliable best, what’s undoubtedly meant to sound slick, snarky and funny just ends up sounding clunky and weird. For example, the oft-repeated, “Can I get a ‘copy, boss?’” “Copy, boss!” “Music to my ears.” Yeah. That gets annoying. Real fast.

And even though the creatives behind all this seem to not want to be the 1993 version (the only similarities to the original story are the basic premise and the title), they also seem pretty hellbent on forcing Kiefer into a Tommy-Lee-Jones-suit that just doesn’t fit. I mean, I’m not saying that Bryce has to be completely humorless, not at all, but a more subtle approach would be music to my ears.

Overall, though, I’d say if you’re just looking for something fun to watch that you don’t have to put much thought into, Quibi’s take on The Fugitive is worthy of a look. And I do give them credit for putting story emphasis on the real world’s tendency toward conjecture-as-news– and just how dangerous any person with a smartphone and a social media account can really be. If nothing else, I’ll keep watching to see if the writing bumps smooth themselves out along the way as we get deeper into the story. We’ll see.

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Lorinda Donovan
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