The Fugitive (1993) Takes On It’s Ultimate Copycat Fugitive X (1996).
It’s a thriller chase showdown between Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive (1993) and David Heavener’s ultimate copycat knock-off Fugitive X (1996) in another exciting edition of our new UAMC series COPYCATS! (Check out our last episode on Robocop vs Robo Vampire here!) Let’s dive in and find the real ultimate culprit…
Copycats is a bimonthly column about popular action movies and the low-budget films they inspire. Each column, we take a popular action movie and find its cinematic doppelganger, revel in their similarities and dissect their differences. Some of these copycats are good enough (or strange enough) to earn their place in action movie history, but most are being chronicled here to preserve their existence – for better or for worse.
The Fugitive vs. Fugitive X
Original Film: The Fugitive, 1993, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, directed by Andrew Davis
Copycat: Fugitive X: Innocent Target, 1996, starring David Heavener and Richard Norton, directed by David Heavener
Synopsis of both films: A seemingly normal man finds himself on the wrong side of a massive manhunt
Based on the 1960’s television show, Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford), is wrongfully accused and convicted of killing his wife. After escaping from a prison transfer bus, Kimble is on the run trying to clear his name and avoid capture by a team of U.S. Marshals lead by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Jones). This film was hugely successful at the box office, earning $183 million in its domestic run and nearly $369 million total worldwide. It spawned a 1998 sequel starring Jones and Wesley Snipes and a spoof, Wrongfully Accused, starring Leslie Nielsen – which was not very good.
Fugitive X: Innocent Target was one of the six movies low-budget legend David Heavener helped bring to life in 1996 – writing, directing, producing and starring in this one which features a former cop, Adam Trent (Heavener) being mysteriously hunted down on the streets of Los Angeles. And while it shares more similarities with 1993’s Hard Target (a reinterpretation of the classic Richard Connell short story “The Most Dangerous Game”) it shares its name and several minor thematic elements with The Fugitive.
Both leads had close family members die (Kimble’s wife, obviously, and Trent’s daughter) and both are being hunted. However, in Fugitive X, there isn’t a clear reason why. Trent goes to work on day at the computer firm (wearing a tuxedo because it’s his birthday?) and is tagged by a stripper jumping out of a cake. Remember kids, this was a different time when cake strippers at work were totally acceptable. Now he’s on the run.
Which is better?
Well, this one is kind of tough. You see, The Fugitive was a great movie in 1993, but it would be hard to convince audiences today that Kimble would be found guilty of his wife’s murder. With improvements in 911 technology, surveillance equipment, DNA evidence, cellphone technology, etc. Kimble couldn’t have been realistically charged with this crime today – let alone convicted. No crime, no movie. Fugitive X on the other hand doesn’t require viewers to believe as much. It’s just a guy, with a gun, being chased by other guys with guns.
And, in a way, while it borrows from The Fugitive, it also borrows heavily from the 1990s action genre. Heavener has a slicked back ponytail (just like Steven Seagal), there’s a girl in a cake (again, just like Seagal in Under Siege), Fugitive X gets trapped and tortured by a bunch of nutjobs (including action legend Robert Z’Dar) in the backroom of a store (like Pulp Fiction), there’s a fight on a rooftop (like every movie set in a city), and … you see where I’m going with this. Fugitive X plays like a greatest hits record – for action movies! So, while The Fugitive will always be a better-made movie, time has made Fugitive X a more watchable one.
Other notes: Good luck finding a version of Fugitive X to watch. It was never released on DVD, and it’s hard to find a good copy on VHS. I found one version of it (Russian dubbed) on YouTube. But do your best to track it down. It is worth it!
Article by Eric LaRose – a Wisconsin-based connoisseur of action, horror and sci-fi movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s. A former journalist and podcaster, Eric wrote the ending to the Toxic Avenger Part 4, but the only person who will back up that claim is his wife.
What’s your thoughts on the Fugitive (1993) vs. Fugitive X (1996) copycat showdown? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!