Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Mena Suvari, Catherine Deneuve, Stephen Rea
MPAA Rating: (for intense action violence and some sexual material)
Running Time: 1:45
Release Date: 9/7/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
The new buzz word going around Hollywood now is "re-imagining." The Musketeer is being billed as a re-imagining of the Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel The Three Musketeers—a statement that amuses me. This time "re-imagining" means the story is half-heartedly told, but there are new fight sequences in it! Fight sequences that defy convention—two years ago. What does it matter, though, when the everything surrounding the fights is as stale as the term "re-imagining" will be in a few more months? The term has existed for only a scant few months now, and it is already being misplaced and overused. But that’s how Hollywood works, I guess.
Who doesn’t know the story of D’Artagnan (Justin Chambers) and his adventures to become a musketeer? The movie hopes not too many. As a young boy, D’Artagnan watches as his parents are killed by the evil Febre (Tim Roth). When he has grown, he goes out to seek revenge and become a musketeer. He meets the famous musketeers, and discovers that they have been dismissed from duty after being framed for murder. You see, France is in a state of unrest, and Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) is trying to take advantage of the situation by employing Febre to start a war with Spain. And then there’s Francesca (Mena Suvari), a friend of the queen who happens to be working at a seedy hotel, whose sole existence is to serve as a love interest.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately. There’s nothing remotely new or successful here. The story is laughably adapted, and it will serve most people well to choose their favorite change. My personal favorite is how Richelieu becomes the misunderstood man who just got into something too far out of his control. Then there are the just plain silly parts. For example, the fact that Febre is simply called "The Man in Black," a convention that was laughable even in Dumas’ time. The plot elements are so poorly edited they border incomprehensible, and they probably would be if not for the familiarity of the story.
You don’t expect much out of a model turned actor, and Chambers, a former Calvin Klein model, continues that tradition. He is monotone and bland, simply reading his lines and emitting the charm of a block of wood. Suvari must know her character is pointless, so I will credit her for that. Even the established actors look bored as they are probably just showing up each day for the paycheck. The biggest disappointment of the casting is Tim Roth. Here is an actor capable of some the best villainous performances reduced to simply showing up and saying things menacingly. Considering his work in Rob Roy and even Planet of the Apes, his presence is all the more depressing.
Did I mention there are fight sequences? They are by far the best part of this movie, but even they disappoint. The choreography is done by Xin Xin Xiong and is extremely reminiscent of fights in movies like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yes, the whole defying-the-laws-of-physics thing can work, but in situations where there is not reason for it, it is just funny. Take for example a fight done on ropes while climbing a tower. The most obvious solution would be to cut the rope of your enemy, but it has to happen to him before he figures that out. The scenes are also poorly edited, and it’s difficult on more than one occasion to tell who’s who. Bad guys appear out of nowhere in a carriage fight, and even the best fight (involving a room full of ladders) is plagued by the question: Can a sword that thin really cut through a ladder that thick? Or an even better question: When will this thing end?
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.