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MUSKETEER, THE
Reviewed March 17th, 2002 by Brian White

 

Hereís a great idea: combine the tried and true swashbuckling movie genre with Hong Kong fighting choreography. Itís a pretty swell idea. Now, hereís what you donít do to make it work: donít take it too seriously, and donít for a second try to make it come across as a costume drama. Look, I know that Mirimax is making the movie. It doesnít matter. Any hint of popcorn movie in your ďfilmĒ will make it just a popcorn movie.

The Musketeer is a respinning of the same old story: a little 18th century French lad witnesses the murder of his father and mother by a nasty bad guy. He then spends his life honing his fighting skills and fights evil dressed as a giant bat. No. Sorry, thatís the wrong movie. He trains under a former Musketeer and is really good at fighting. At the right age, he heads to Paris (which probably looked more opulent at the time than it does here) to become a Musketeer. Well, take it from me, Paris is a nasty place. This movie does the French attitude justice. Everybody hates our Musketeer in training. As a result, we have ample opportunity to see his over-the-top fighting prowess.

Strangely, the best fight in the whole movie is near the beginning, in the roadside tavern. I must confess that Iíve never seen some of the cool moves that are present in the movie. Hereís the problem: the fighting scenes make you feel like youíve changed the channel from PBS to FOX. They are too long, and just donít fit into the movie.

Director Peter Hyams should be taken to task for some of the poor performances here. Mena Suvari and Justin Chambers spit out such poor dialogue with such conviction that youíd swear they werenít told that this is a popcorn movie. Suvari and Catherine Deneuve are better actors than you see here. Tim Roth is way over the top. If this movie had a sense of humor, like Knightís Tale, it would have been awesome. Instead, itís quite horrible.

So Hyams probably thought heíd give the flick some gravitas by using the grainy, Mirimax art-house film stock. Instead, you have a bad movie that looks like crap. Is it raining out, or is that film grain? Certainly, the grain is used for effect in some places. Other than that, there seem to be problems with the filmmaking itself. The lighting is bad, as you get these glowy spots here and there on the frame. I swear some parts are even out of focus. Is this the transfer, or the source? I donít care. The video, though 2.35:1 anamorphic, sometimes rivals The Holy Grail.

The DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes fare a little better than the transfer. There is ample rumble under the horses. As youíd expect, the DTS mix has a little more depth. Because this is a popcorn flick, thereís lotís going on in the surrounds during some scenes.

Luckily the disc is uninfected by a directorís commentary. Strangely enough, Hyams shows his face on two brief behind-the-scenes featurettes. The behind the scenes bits must be straight off of HBO. Thereís another bit about Chambers, where he brags about the month he spent in training, but that bitís on the other featurette as well.

 

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