Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Catherine Deneuve, Stephen Rea, Mena Suvari
"As you've never seen it before," claims the advertising for Peter Hyams' new version of The Three Musketeers, and that's not entirely untrue. Having seen the story in just about every manner imaginable -- including a musical-comedy version with Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers -- I have never seen a version this incredibly dull. Less truthful are the promos for the film that make it look like it's going to turn into something like Crouching Musketeer, Hidden D'Artagnan, because the anticipated martial-arts action -- for better or worse -- is limited in the extreme and most of the time The Musketeer looks like the most generic swashbuckling imaginable -- except when it looks like a B western. Astonishingly, this "reimagining" imagines that it'd be swell idea to incorporate the old hero-falls-onto-the-horses-of-a-coach-and-climbs-underneath-the-carriage-for-another-go-at-the-bad-guys routine. It isn't. Nor is it such an aces notion to give D'Artagnan a "wonder horse" that comes to the rescue whenever our hero whistles -- D'Artagnan by way of Gene Autry. The storyline is also "reimagined," though into what, I'm not quite sure. Cardinal Richelieu (played by Stephen Rea, who appears to be on the verge of cosmic boredom throughout) is still the underhanded louse who's trying to take over France. This time, however, he has somehow created a sort of Frankenstein Monster in Tim Roth's Febre, a no-holds-barred psychopath so terrible that Richelieu ends up being on D'Artagnan's side briefly in order to destroy him. While Roth's villainous General Thade in Planet of the Apes was one of that film's most effective things, here he just seems over-the-top and silly. It may be unintentional, but at least he's amusing. The leads, however, are -- to be charitable about it -- wanting. Justin Chambers may have been good in a supporting role in The Wedding Planner, but he's out of his depth here trying to carry the film. It doesn't help that he tries to convince he's French by seemingly adopting an English accent in the early scenes and then sounding progressively American as the film continues. Mena Suvari, on the other hand, is almost painfully bad in many of her scenes, though this is at least partly due to the stilted dialogue she's been given. No one really comes off very well, though Catherine Deneuve manages not to look foolish, thanks to her natural dignity. The movie's highly touted fight choreography does produce a pretty decent showdown for D'Artagnan and Febre, but it seems too self-consciously clever and the actual climax is botched, thanks to director-cinematographer Hyams' penchant for shooting with natural light as much as possible, which makes exactly what happens hard to see. Hyams' approach to cinematography results in some lovely and striking images, but there comes a point where pretty pictures are less preferable than simply being able to tell what's going on -- and Hyams crosses that point on more than one occasion. Let's put it this way, I left The Musketeer with just one thought in my mind -- are Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers out on DVD yet?