The Musketeer

I will see any movie with Tim Roth in it; he does such a great job in his usual role as villain. "The Musketeer" is no exception. In a reimaging of Dumas' classic tales of the King of France's elite guards, the focus on this version of the story is on D 'Artagnan (Justin Chambers). This movie is supposed to tell his story, which basically goes like this: We get a brief glimpse of D'Artagnan's early childhood, his reason for wanting to be a Musketeer, on his way to training he meets a beautiful girl, raises the Cardinal's ire, saves the throne, averts war, and gets justice for a past wrong.

Times are uneasy in 17th century France as it is on the verge of war with England and Spain. King Louis XIII (Daniel Mesguich) wishes to avoid war, but the dissimulating Cardinal Richelieu, (Stephen Rea) wishes to engage in conflict. Morale and confidence in the king is low, and Richelieu uses it to his advantage, and forms a plot to discredit the monarchy. Further, he manipulates it so that the King's guards, the Musketeers, are in disgrace and raises his own private army headed by henchman Febre (Tim Roth) in their place. In a revenge subplot similar to Braveheart, the movie opens as we follow D'Artagnan as he sets out to fulfill his aspirations to be a Musketeer. He is following in the footsteps of his father who was cruelly killed by Febre. We encounter him and his adopted father Planchet (Jean-Pierre Castaldi) traveling the Musketeer training encampment in Paris, where along the way he gets into the oft shown trailer of the fight in the darkened tavern with the barrels. That scene is very stunning and probably the best action scene in the movie. The rest of the choreography is sensational but not well grounded (literally). After a while, I started to think "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The final scene between D'Artagnan and Febre on the ladders was too acrobatic to be real; these were swordsmen not trapeze artists. I was expecting Jackie Chan to come out and do some stunts with them. The movie at times has the look and feel of a Hong Kong movie set in 17th century France. Woefully, the action scenes are filmed too close up, under poor lighting, and from shaky camera angles.

Of course the movie features the typical characters; Porthos (Steven Spiers), Athos, (Jan Gregor Kremp) and Aramis (Nick Moran), who only have bit parts and appear when D'Artagnan needs backup so that he may prevail as the hero. The motto of the Musketeers is supposed to be "all for one, and one for all", but this is really just and "all for D'Artangnan", as the main Three Musketeers take a back seat to him. This is completely contrary to the original story, as D'Artagnan was the youngest and least experienced of the elite swordsmen. The plot is very monotonous and you see Justin Chambers in nearly every scene. (Originally the movie was titled "D'Artagnan", by the way).

I think the movie was miscast grossly. Mena Suvari just doesn't do it as Constance Bonacieux, the love interest of D'Artagnan who despite being in the favor of the Queen, works as a chambermaid in a dreary boarding house. Justin Chambers, who looks like Chris O'Donnell (from another Musketeer movie), just parroted his line without emotion or belief. Catherine Denueve was the only authentic French thing in the movie, save the scenery. She is nameless through the movie, only referred to as the Queen of France, but I presume that she was supposed to be Anne of Austria. Besides Denueve and Rea, the only other worthy actor in the film was Tim Roth, who seems to be reprising his role from Rob Roy, dressed from head to toe in black. He is the vehicle for the cardinal's treachery and does a grand job at being nasty and repulsive. However, just coming off a similar role in "Planet of the Apes", seeing him like this it getting a bit stale. Daniel Mesguich is too weak as the King, and the Three Musketeers just seem to be going through the motions. The majority of the acting in the film is sterile, and perhaps if it weren't for that, the production would have been better. They should have called this one "Crouching D'Artagnan, Hidden Musketeers".

If you are a fan of this ilk, then go and see it. You will be entertained and you can add another version of Dumas's tale to your repertoire. If you are a purist of history and literature, this may not be a movie that will please you. I personally enjoyed the movie, but then again, Tim Roth was in it.

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: C

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:

A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV


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