Watching the screen go dark at the end of The Musketeer might be the best part of the entire film.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Immediately after sitting through Peter Hyams'' resourcefully awful "reimagining" of Alexandre Dumas'' classic tale of King Louis, Cardinal Richelieu, and the little problems of state that make them whine, I felt compelled to revisit Richard Lester''s excellent, bravura 1973 film The Three Musketeers, which I assumed would be playing on "American Movie Classics" when I got home, because it always is. It wasn''t, however, so I went to bed and dreamed of a world where actors who treat the role of D''Artagnan as if it were a rehearsal for a better gig as Keanu Reeves (I''m speaking to you, Justin Chambers) are hastily skewered on their own dull, un-rapier-like wits and left for crow''s food in the noonday sun. It was a much more pleasant experience than watching Peter Hyams'' The Musketeer, I assure you. So unspeakably awful is The Musketeer that I was tempted to systematically demolish the film''s non-charms, but why waste all that energy when I could be clearing my mental palate with a few choice viewings of the aforementioned Lester version, or, even better, anything featuring a young Errol Flynn.
Hyams'' film has many, many bad aspects to it, but the two most obvious: first, the hideous casting of Chambers as the revengeful wannabe Musketeer D''Artagnan, who, like little Conan the Barbarian, saw his parents slaughtered by the local right bastard (in this case it''s Tim Roth''s craven Febre, who, frankly, can''t hold a candle to James Earl Jones'' Thulsa Doom) and consequently embarks on a lifelong vendetta; and second, Mena Suvari''s flirty servant girl, the Musketoid''s love interest and all-around lash-flutterer. Both of them seem to have wandered in from some other film, possibly a Pauly Shore vehicle, acting as though they''d never acted before. It''s enough to make you long for the droll charms of, oh, Pauly Shore.
To be fair, Stephen Rea''s cunning stunter Cardinal Richelieu and Catherine Deneuve''s French-accented Spanish Queen are choice characterizations, and these two pros bring considerable talent to the roles. Tim Roth, as the Cardinal''s psychotic toady Febre, fares less well; he''s a black leather-clad mincer and seems forever on the verge of gleefully rubbing his hands together, Snidely Whiplash-style. He ought to get a room with the Sheriff of Nottingham and have at it.
Hyams'' film has the real Musketeers--Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (Jan Gregor Kremp, Steve Speirs, Nick Moran)--drunk half the time, as they''re out of work at the moment, but they rally toward the end and help to save the day, if not the film. Working from a script composed entirely of profoundly bad one-liners and lengthy, incomprehensible exposition (care of screenwriter Gene Quintano), the actors engage in Hong Kong-style fight scenes, all of which are framed in medium shots so that you never can tell who''s beating on whom. It gets worse, but why speak ill of the soon-to-be-forgotten? If this is Hyams'' idea of a "reimagining," perhaps his imagination is best left unexplored.
The Musketeer... (*Bomb*)Rated: PG-13, 105 min.
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Stephen Rea, Justin Chambers, Stefan Jürgens, Mena Suvari, Jan Gregor Kremp, Catherine Deneuve, Nick Moran, Steve Speirs, Tim Roth
Where: Crossroads Cinema, Century Galaxy, Northridge Cinema
When: See Movie Times