Musketeer (2001) – movie review

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Justin Chambers, Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth

Director: Peter Hyams

The 21 st Century. Time to reinvent the old with a sprinkle of the new. Can it be done successfully? Well, let’s see. With a host of Musketeer films to live up to, the most famous and the best is the 1973 Richard Lester version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS starring a host of stars such as Michael York as D’Artagnan, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, Spike Milligan, Oliver Reed, Faye Dunaway and Raquel Welch. My head is spinning at such a wealth of talent in one movie. The last version from 1993 featured the likes of Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O’Donnell. It was not much of a surprise that it failed to excite anyone. Now, it’s the year 2002 and what can we expect from what will probably be the first of many versions of the classic tale to grace the twenty-first century? Two answers: exciting set pieces and nice teeth.

A young D’Artagnan is a witness to his parents’ brutal murder by the ruthless Febre (Tim Roth). Planchet (Jean-Pierre Castaldi) becomes the young boy’s guardian and teaches him the ways of the musketeer. Fourteen years later, D’Artagnan (Justine Chambers) seeks out the King’s former guards whose leader Treville has been jailed – framed for murder by Febre. D’Artagnan searches for Aramis (Nick Moran), Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp), Porthos (Steve Spiers) and the rest of the musketeers, but finds them all aimless, dishevelled and bitter. Unable to make many allies among them, D’Artagnan is resigned to avenging the death of his parents on his own, if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, D’Artagnan finds some lodgings, run by Bonacieux (Bill Treacher) and his help Francesca (Mena Suvari), an orphan whose mother was the Queen’s dressmaker. Meanwhile the Queen (Catherine Deneuve) seeks out help from Lord Buckingham in an attempt to shift power back to the King from the conniving Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) and the evil Febre, but as always, Febre anticipates this and kidnaps the Queen. It is now up to D’Artagnan to rally the support of the other musketeers.

For those who are not familiar with the original story, they will wonder what the fuss is all about. From the start, the quality of the opening titles are so poor you would be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a TV movie. While there has been an attempt at realism, such as showing muddy streets, dirty fingernails and poor lighting for any indoor shots, it is the sight of the two leads glowing white teeth that shine through this murky adaptation. Some of the roles are just not convincing enough, finding themselves simply going through the motions and with an over the top Tim Roth spewing out unintentionally funny lines such as “I feel the need to harm someone” – you can either sit there with your mouth open or fall off your seat laughing, which I did.

On the plus side, the action sequences are very good. Witness D’Artagnan sword fighting on top of a rolling barrel or the dizzying excellent ladder swordfight at the end of the movie. Under the careful supervision of the excellent Hong Kong stunt choreographer Xin Xin Xiong, the ladder sequence is as good as the rooftop chase scene in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. Unfortunately, 15 or 20 minutes of action do not make an obvious storyline brilliant and the 2 stars awarded below are solely for the stunt work.

2 out of 6 stars