Musketeer, The

Stars:    Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, Justin Chambers, Mena Suvari
Director:   Peter Hyams
Writer:    Gene Quintano – based on the novel Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas

This new version of Dumas’ classic has some clinks in the story but it’s handsomely mounted with lovely scenery, good locations and pretty costumes. Action sequences, choreographed by Hong Kong-trained Xin-Xin Xiong (Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are remarkably restrained, keeping with the period, still they have a life of their own and are the best parts of the film. Dialogue and plot are fairly blasé.

Justin Chambers plays the young D’Artagnan, out to revenge his parents’ death at the hands of Cardinal Richelieu’s no-gooder, Febre (Tim Roth). Along the way, D’Artagnan hopes to become a Musketeer, like his father. And since a Musketeer’s job is to protect the King, they mostly hang out in Paris. So off to Paris D’Artagnan goes, aided by his clever mentor Planchet, played beautifully by Jean-Pierre Castaldi. Once in Paris, they discover that Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) has been trying to brew a war between England and Spain so those countries will keep their imperialistic hands off of France. And he wants to topple the crown and cause enough disarray so the people will gladly turn for guidance to the all powerful Catholic Church and politically hungry Richelieu himself. To that end, Richelieu has manipulated the King to shuffle the Musketeers off to obscurity.

D’Artagnan must use his bravura and intelligence to rally the Musketeers and fight for right to save his country from Richelieu while exacting vengeance on Febre for the loss of his parents. A mild distraction comes in the form of a pretty miss named Francesca (Mena Suvari) who works at the inn but also happens to be the Queen’s confidante.

There’s lots of wild swashbuckling as you would expect and Justin Chambers appears to hold his own in the fight sequences. As a leading man, he’s just passable; no great charisma or screen presence. For that matter, Mena Suvari doesn’t fare much better. Catherine Deneuve, who plays the Queen of France, is radiant and has some nice moments despite the small role. Hollywood’s favorite villain, Tim Roth, does the job expected of him with his usual effervescent flair. But, special mention must go to Jean-Pierre Castaldi whose gravely voice and sweet manner is most reminiscent of André the Giant’s performance in The Princess Bride. Stephen Rea serves his purpose as the snivelly Cardinal but the role isn’t much to sink one’s teeth into.

There are some incongruities in the plot like in a scene in which you are led to believe that D’Artagnan is going to get something to fix a sore horse’s leg but instead he ends up having a picnic at a lake with his lady friend. Little bits of action are edited so poorly that you aren’t sure what it is you’ve just seen. There’s a beauty of stunt in which both Febre and D’Artagnan mount their horses without benefit of stirrups, but it’s a wonder that neither they nor their steeds don’t get skewered by their dangling swords.

Lotta says
look for good action sequences in a tavern where D’Artagnan pins himself between ceiling beams and another one where he fights Febre atop giant ladders in a wine cellar. Other stunts and plot elements suffer from a decided lack of creativity.

Reviewed 9/8/01