July 19, 1998 -- "The Mask of Zorro" is an old-fashioned swashbuckler with plenty of action, charm and romance. You can't say they don't make movies like they used to after seeing this one.
The first Zorro movie, "The Mark of Zorro." way back in 1920 by Douglas Fairbanks, co-founder (With Charlie Chaplain, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford) of United Artists. It was followed by many other Zorro movies and several television series, so the territory is familiar. Zorro is like Robin Hood, he fights against tyrrany for the common man. He's also a bit like Superman, a super-hero with seemingly superhuman skills.
In this incarnation Anthony Hopkins plays Zorro (Don Diego de la Vega). He's a rich guy with his own bat cave in the basement, where he hides his horse, cape, mask and stuff. He is discovered late in his career by the evil Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson of "The Rock"), who throws him in jail and steals his daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta Jones in her first major role. She was in the "Titanic" miniseries). Don Diego de la Vega's wife is also killed when he is arrested and he swears vengeance.
20 years later, he escapes from prison. He bumps into a small-time thief, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), who once saved his life. He teaches him to be the next Zorro. Both he and Murrieta have scores to settle, he with Montero, and Murrieta with Captain Harrison Love (Matthew Letscher, unknown in movies, was a regular on the tv series "Almost Perfect"), the man who killed his brother.
The two men team up to find out why Don Rafael Montero has returned to California from Spain. It turns out he has cooked up a scheme to buy California from Mexico, using gold from a secret mine in California. Captain Love is helping Montero. The two Zorros must stop the plot.
The movie gets off to a slow start, but there is plenty of action, with lots of swordfights and acrobatic stunts, like people swinging through the air from ropes. It is all great fun, with some wry humor thrown in, along with some movie clichés, such as the "Megalomaniac Map," showing Montero's plans for conquest. Banderas is a dashing hero and Hopkins delivers a fine performance. Wilson and Letscher drip with villainy and Catherine Zeta Jones shows some spunk and swordfighting skill as the daughter of Zorro. This film rates a B.
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