lexandre Dumas is a French novelist, although you wouldn't
know it from all the countless film versions of his books by Americans,
including ad nauseam versions of "The 3 Musketeers," "The Count
of Monte Cristo", and "The Man in the Iron
Mask." Dumas is a
popular writer and his books are filled with adventure, politics, and royal
intrigue -- all the same things that make them such good fodder for
action-adventure films. Peter Hyams' version of Dumas' "The 3
Musketeers," called simply The Musketeer, is yet another in a long
line of adaptations.
Justin Chambers stars as D'Artagnan, a Musketeer-wannabe
who witnessed the murders of his parents by Febre (Tim Roth), the henchman and
enforcer for King-wannabe Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea). It seems the only
reason Febre killed D'Artagnan's parents was that they gave him lip. Febre, you
see, is something of a homicidal maniac. Flash-forward 14 years, as a now-adult
D'Artagnan appears in Paris hoping to join the ranks of the Musketeers like his
father before him, but unfortunately the Musketeers have been disbanded and
Cardinal Richelieu's thugs have the run of the city. And oh yeah, Febre is
crazier than ever and still working for Richelieu, only now the twosome has a
plan to overthrow the King and Queen of France. It's up to fledgling Musketeer D'Artagnan and a bunch of
down-and-out and drunken ex-Musketeers to save the day.
It should be noted that Justin Chambers looks like Chris
O'Donnell (Batman and Robin) but with better acting skills, although that
isn't saying much, since my little sister has better acting skills than Chris
O'Donnell. Chambers actually looks very convincing as D'Artagnan, the young but
overly confident Musketeer. Even though most of Chambers' stunts and swordfights
are done by a very skilled stunt double, Chambers does carry the role well, and
actually made me believe that it just might be him doing the stunts. Of course
it's not, as the fact that we never see D'Artagnan's face in wide shots during
the movie's many swordfights prove.
The rest of the cast acquits themselves
well, even Mena Suvari as Francesca, a peasant girl who falls for D'Artagnan and
vice versa. Rounding out the cast is Catherine Deneuve as the spunky Queen of
France and Bill Treacher as Bonacieux, D'Artagnan's spry mentor and confidant.
Which brings us to the movie's real treat: the swordfights.
With The Musketeer, director Peter Hyams has chosen to film the fight
scenes with an eastern flair. From time to time eagle-eyed moviegoers familiar
with Hong Kong sword pics might catch familiar moves within the swordfights of The
Musketeer. This is probably because the movie's stunt coordinator is Xin Xin
Xiong, a well-known Hong Kong stunt coordinator who has done a lot of Jet Li's
period action movies. This might explain why the movie's swordplay relies
heavily on Chinese swordfighting techniques rather than any "French"
The movie's ultimate fight occurs, appropriately enough, at the end
between Febre and D'Artagnan in a wine cellar that involves the two combatants
literally leaping from ladder to ladder while doing battle in midair with
swords. It's quite a sight, and easily trumps the movie's other fight scenes.
While action and adventure is alive and well in The
Musketeer, the movie has quite a few flaws. One is director/cinematographer
Hyams' art direction. Hyams has elected to shoot much of the film in darken
rooms or cramped quarters. I'm not much of a French historian, and perhaps the
French rooms were actually dark like this on most occasions, but I can't help
but think director Hyams made the action scenes dark on purpose, the more to
hide the fact that Justin Chambers' D'Artagnan is actually a Chinese stunt
double. Then again, this could be an aesthetic choice that had nothing to do
with trying to hide the stuntman.
Another negative is the presence of a subdued
and seemingly disinterested Tim Roth. Roth, who is normally a very good villain,
is as dark and somber as his character's black uniform. He is supposed to be an
arch nemesis of D'Artagnan, but the two men's grudge doesn't seem apparent, and
this takes away some of the "grudge match" factor in their finale
swordfight. Tim Roth is normally a very reliable actor, but seems to have
trouble staying awake in The Musketeer.
Is this movie a good adaptation? Oh God, no. There's much
better versions out there, and in the same token, there's much worst versions
out there, too. What The Musketeer does have is a good sense of adventure
and a constant "fun" feel to it, and if not taken too seriously, it's
a good way to waste 90 minutes. As the cliché goes, "The book is
better," although I don't think the book's swordplay was ever this fun or