Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Catherine Deneuve … The Queen
Mena Suvari … Francesca Bonacieux
Stephen Rea … Cardinal Richelieu
Tim Roth … Febre the Man in Black
Justin Chambers … D’Artagnan
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|Producer||Moshe Diamant, Rudy Cohen|
“The Musketeer” may not take your imagination back to the seventeenth century, but it took me back to an earlier day in filmmaking. I have observed, watched, and studied films since I was four year old and I can remember using my allowance to order 8mm versions of classic silent films from Blackhawk Films. The old Chapter Serials were among my favorites. In those days adults and children would go to the local cinema week after week to watch their favorite stories unfold. Each chapter would end with a cliff-hanger.
During the 1930s and 40s, studios conducted “reel” wars, constantly working to outdo each other. There were always bigger stunts, more action, greater suspense, and even more impossible situations for the heroes to overcome. Republic Pictures produced my favorites from the thrill factory. What great fun!
that’s what “The Musketeer” is mostly—just fun. The added stunts by well-known Hong Kong director Xin Xin Xoing (“Double Team”, “Once Upon a Time in China”) doesn’t hurt. it’s your basic check-your-brain-at-the-door flic. But for today’s dino and space-crazed audience, this film may not have as strong of an appeal as it once did (perhaps proven by the poor showing for the recent B-western “American Outlaws” which left the theater after only two weeks).
“The Musketeer” is loosely based on the story “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas. If you’ve read Dumas’ story first, your appreciation for “The Musketeer” will be great. But since time is of the essence these days, you’ll just have to take in Peter Hyams’ (“Timecop”, “End of Days”) creative spin.
Our story begins with D’Antagnan (Justin Chambers) as the young son of a wounded Musketeer. it’s 17th-Century France and the threat of war with the Spaniards is on the horizon. Young D’Antagnan witnesses the murder of his mother and father (a common plot point to qualify you as a hero) by the hand of evil Febre (Tim Roth). Tim always plays the role of the villain (recently “Planet of the Apes”) with a convincing disdain. Young D’Anatagna is taken in by his father’s mentor Treville (Michael Byrne). There’s the typical feel-good exchange between the two (witnessed in other films like “Karate Kid”).
The Musketeers, originally an elite group created to defend King Louis XIII (Daniel Mesguich), currently find themselves in disgrace during this difficult period for France. The Queen (Catherine Deneuve) is suspected of manipulating our weak king while the Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) is waiting for his opportunity to steal the power of the throne. It is the perfect atmosphere for political conflict, and bloodthirsty Febre is all too eager to be used as the Cardinal’s puppet.
D’Antagan longs to be a Musketeer and wants to help restore their honor and avenge his parent’s death. He is joined by Aramis (Nick Moran), Porthos (Steve Spears), and Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp) (Yep, you guessed it—three Musketeers). D’Antagan has his work cut out for him as he tries to enlist their unwillingness. Our hero does meet up with a heroin, Francesca (Mena Suvari). She quickly becomes his love interest (it is after all a 104-minute film), and it doesn’t hurt that she is a friend of the Queen (it’s nice to have friends in high places). Francesca does become the brief target of the objectionable content in this film. These scenes include some voyeurism, an attempted rape by an uncle, and an encounter with D’Antagan (who is presumably unclothed).
The film earns its PG-13 rating with lots of swashbuckling and passing sexual content. It also contains some moments in taverns with lots of alcohol consumption (implying that these are depressed Musketeers). The movie is easy on the ears. Thank you, Mr. Quintano, for almost no profanity. Some of the characters make light of confession, repentance, and the role of the Cardinal (after all he is after the throne). The dialog is consistent within the context of the characters. I do recommend “The Musketeer” with the above notations. The PG-13 rating should be observed.
It’s not the best matinee offering, but it certainly is not the worst. You may want to rent an Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks Jr. video instead. They certainly dueled with a lot of energy and an often-humorous tone. My personal favorite is the 1929 film “The Iron Mask”. You can watch Fairbanks (in one of his most memorable roles) trying to also restore the King of France.