[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Musketeer

Swashbuckling, Hong Kong style

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

March 23, 2002 -- "The Musketeer" is the latest of many adaptations of the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas, but the first to use Hong Kong-style martial arts sequences. It is a great idea, but unfortunately it is executed poorly.

The story, has a young swordsman, D'Artagnan attempting to join the king's elite guards, the Royal Musketeers, who have fallen into disfavor in the French royal court. D'Artagnan (played by Justin Chambers of "The Wedding Planner"), wants to follow in his father's footsteps. He saw his mother and father killed by an evil swordsman named Febre (Tim Roth of "Planet of the Apes") and he wants to see justice done. He falls in love with a young chambermaid, Francesca (Mena Suvari of "American Beauty"), living at the same hotel in Paris where he is staying. Francesca is a confidante to the Queen of France, Anne d'Autriche (Catherine Deneuve of "Dancer in the Dark").

Soon, D'Artagnan is caught up in royal intrigue as he escorts the queen on a secret diplomatic mission to avert war between England and France. Also involved in these dangerous political schemes is Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea of "The Butcher Boy"), and his henchman, Febre. D'Artagnan must fight to earn the respect of the other Musketeers, and must fight to rally the Musketeers to save the queen. There is plenty of adventure and swordplay.

The fight scenes were choreographed by Xin Xin Xiong, a Hong Kong actor and martial arts choreographer. Xiong is also a stunt double for Roth in the film. Some of the fight scenes are so spectacular they are silly, with liberal use of wires to support the high flying stunt men. One of the best such scenes in the film involves an extended sword fight on ladders. The ladders tip crazily back and forth and the two fighters seesaw back and forth on a ladder balanced over a beam. It is no coincidence that Xiong worked as a stunt double for Jet Li in "Once Upon a Time in China," an earlier Hong Kong action film with a similar ladder scene. The fight scenes are the most interesting part of the film, but they not well executed.

One of the problems with some of the fight scenes is the use of too many closeup shots and the failure to use a wide enough angle on the camera shots to see the full scope of the action. Another problem was some of the stunts, such as a man conducting a sword fight with men standing on the floor, while wedged between two ceiling beams, are clearly impossible. In fact, that particular tactic makes no sense in terms of fight strategy. If you are using both hands to hang onto the ceiling, you can't use your sword to defend yourself. You can move back and forth quickly to avoid the sword thrusts, but only with the aid of wires, or some other means of support.

The dramatic elements to the story, as well as the romance between D'Artagnan and Francesca are botched as well. There is no character development, and the characters are all cardboard-thin. Aside from the ever-reliable Roth and Deneuve as well as Jean-Pierre Castaldi (who plays D'Artagnan's guardian, Planchet), the acting is substandard. The result is a weak version of a classic story. It rates a C. The best filmed version of this story, for my money, is the 1974 film, "The Three Musketeers," starring Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Michael York. It is a lot more fun.

I saw this film for the first time on DVD. The aspect ratio is widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. The audio tracks include English (DTS), English and French (Dolby Digital 5.1). Features include production notes, theatrical trailer, casting Justin Chambers and the stunts. The stunt video is disappointing. It shows little detail about how the stunts in the movie were done. It is mainly a rehash of the theatrical trailer with some filmmaker interviews added. This is not a very full-featured DVD. The images seemed O.K. but the Foley sounds didn't seem convincing.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)