Wednesday, 26 November 2008
THE MUSKETEER (2001)
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Screenplay: Gene Qunitano
Starring: Justin Chambers, Mena Suvari, Tim Roth & Stephen Rea
Hmmmm, The Musketeer. An interesting oddity at best, a pretty rubbish flick at worst. Now this ‘interpretation’ is by no means for the Alexandre Dumas fan club or those expecting a faithful page to screen transition of The Three Musketeers. In fact, the three musketeers barely make an appearance, making way for Justin Chamber’s know-it-all; I’ll do all the fighting D’artagan. Mix in a ton of, it has to be said: excellent, Hong Kong style action and then completely waste a cast that includes Suvari, Rea and the great Catherine Deveuve and you get the mish-mash version of a classic story. Not fondly remembered by many, The Musketeer is not a complete write-off but never quite gels with its hip, new, funky reinvention of a bunch of sword fighters protecting the Queen of France.
Now comparing it the literary classic is a waste of time (and best left to those who will have a field day ripping it apart and pointing out how the book never featured gravity defying martial arts flavoured sword fighting) as the flick is obviously trying to put a new spin on the well known story. Funking everything up a little and adding Hong Kong style action may have been a legitimate attempt to do something different but comes of more like some producers jumping on the kung fu popularity bandwagon and throwing it into the pot to get more teenagers to watch the flick. In a lot of ways it doesn’t work, as one will often think why are these French dudes in the 17th century busting out Once Upon a Time China (OUATIC) moves. Speaking of that film, the biggest crime The Musketeer makes is lifting the finale from OUATIC wholesale and using it as its own finale. That great fight in OUATIC with Jet Li jumping around ladders and using them as makeshift weapons, is copied almost frame for frame here as Justin Chambers and Tim Roth (well their stunt doubles no doubt) duke it out. Once again it’s a great action scene but feels stale as we already know it’s been done in a far superior movie.
However, if you can go with the 17th Century martial arts/stunt filled vibe, then there is something to enjoy about The Musketeer. The action is by Xin Xin Xiong (the tattooed bad ass from Tsui Hark’s The Blade and, wouldn’t you know it, OUATIC) and he and his team craft some exhilarating set pieces including a sword fight in a bar and a stunt packed horse and carriage chase. The direction is also crisp which is no surprise coming from Peter Hyams, though The Musketeer is no where as accomplished or as much fun as some of his other flicks such as 2010, Timecop and Sudden Death. So we have a load of decent Hong Kong styled action, a ho-hum retelling of a classic and stars who are either underused or never convince as the dashing heroes they need to be in a movie that can’t quite gel everything together. Having seen it a second time, I enjoyed it more than the first time around but if you want to see The Three Musketeers watch one of the umpteen other versions and if you simply want to watch cool Hong Kong kung fu action then watch, well, a cool Hong Kong kung fu flick, like OUATIC.