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   THE MUSKETEER (2001) 

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CAST
Justin Chambers
Stephen Rea
Catherine Deneuve
Tim Roth
Joachim Paul Assbock
Jean-Pierre Castaldi
Jeremy Clyde
Mena Suvari
Steven Spiers
Jan Gregor Kremp

DIRECTED BY
Peter Hyams

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 104 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Romance/Drama


One of the reasons I rushed out to see this film was the trailer. I should have known better. The other is because I'm a sucker for the swashbuckler. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the lush locations and political intrigue. Or perhaps the good-looking men in tight pants. Either way, there's just something about swordplay that gets my blood pumping. To me it's the ultimate battle – more personal than a spray of bullets, but classier than a fist fight. There's honor in the clanking of swords, as well as it looking pretty damn cool. I had no idea there was another retread of the classic Three Musketeers story until I saw the trailer. I had never heard of the actor playing D'Artagnan, but the fight choreography was truly breathtaking. Except for the relative unknown in the lead, everything in the trailer looked promising from the duels to the art direction, etc., etc. I would have been happier if that's all I had actually seen of this movie. Though not as bad as the vapid and bratty Disney version released in 1993, this isn't much of an improvement. In my opinion, it doesn't get better than the 1973 Michael York version, which is a perfect mixture of action, intrigue, comedy and romance, most of what this film is sorely lacking.

It scares me a little that I was fooled by yet another trailer. I just so wanted this movie to be good. Despite the basically no name cast, I figured with the few names that did manage to commit – Roth, Rea, Deneuve and Suvari – this couldn't be all bad. These actors are all quite good, but I guess even they were seduced by the call of the sword. Unfortunately, their combined talent is not enough to keep this sinking ship afloat. In fact, they all seem pretty bored with the proceedings, much like I was after the first half hour. Even Roth was pretty sedate when one considers he was playing a madman...yet again. I think he's a very talented actor, but I'm getting so tired of seeing him in this type of role. Not that there was much to the character. It seems that they just cast him knowing that the audience will just fill in the blanks. Oh, it's Tim Roth, he must be the bad guy. Look, he's killing people again. Isn't he just wicked? I actually believe he performed this part in his sleep. Though he did show more enthusiasm for the affair than the rest of the cast combined. Chambers could've been worse, but for a man with a vendetta, he didn't seem all that fired up. I guess he was just exhausted from all that fighting.

I have no idea how close this is to the classic novel, but I have a feeling it's pretty loosely based. Sure, the characters and the time period (17th Century France) are the same, but that's about it. It's still about a young man, named D'Artagnan, who was inspired by his father to become one of the King's Musketeers, who finds himself in the middle of a major political struggle upon his arrival in Paris. Cardinal Richelieu (Rea) is still plotting to overthrow the King with the help of his right-hand man, Febre (Roth), who has a patch over one eye. That's where the similarities end. In any case, D'Artagnan is appalled to find the musketeers in total disarray, whoring and drinking, since they've been disbanded by the Cardinal for a heinous crime they did not commit. Instead of fighting back, they are disheartened and drunk, thinking him a disillusioned young man, who should go back to his farm. With a daring rescue of their leader from the Cardinal's prison, he proves to them that their cause, protecting the King and country, is not lost.

D'Artagnan discovers inspiration of a different sort in the soft eyes of a young chambermaid, Francesca (Suvari), who lives at his boarding house. He's never met a woman like her and makes his feelings immediately known. She doesn't exactly disapprove of his advances, not a big surprise considering the other alternatives. His presence in Paris starts to annoy the Cardinal, but after a daring plot that saves the King and Queen, D'Artagnan becomes untouchable for a time. With the country on the brink of war with Spain and England, thanks to the Cardinal, the Queen (Deneuve) enlists the help of Francesca and D'Artagnan in one last desperate attempt to stop the madness. Unfortunately, their secret rendezvous with the Duke of Buckingham is intercepted by Febre and his men, who have other plans in store for the little group. With the Queen in jeopardy and the fate of the country in the hands of a madman, D'Artagnan and the scrappy group of musketeers engage in the ultimate battle for the future of France. Since this is a PG-13 film, it should be pretty clear who lives and dies. Thankfully, it's done relatively quickly.


"Bless me Father, for I will sin. One night I will come for you."

I know that all the battles and political intrigue sound like great fun, but unfortunately, it's just not. The plot is contrived to bring the characters from one wild ride to another, not really illuminate the audience about the time period or the characters. Visually this film is a first-rate affair, though some of the fight scenes are darker than they should be. Most likely to hide the fact that it's not really the actors performing the derring-do stunts. Maybe the acting would have been better if the dialogue wasn't so insipid. How they could utter these words without cringing is beyond me. I guess I should be greatful there wasn't much of it. Of course, the problem with that is those who are unfamiliar with the tale will probably be fairly lost throughout the flick. However, my guess is that the high school students won't really care much about the political background of the piece, coming only to see the cool swordplay. Granted the action set pieces are extremely well done, but as I've said, if you've seen the trailer you've seen all there is. It just happens to go on a bit longer in the film.

What upsets me most about this version is the lack of passion. Technically, it's great, but it has no soul and that's just unacceptable. If you've never seen any other version of this story, you might enjoy THE MUSKETEER. However, do yourself a favor and seek out THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973). It's everything a swashbuckler should be – exciting, fun and sexy.



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