The Musketeer

The latest adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic The Three Musketeers uses the story only as a shell. The Three Musketeers, Porthos, Athos and Aramis, appear, but they are relegated to supporting characters. D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers, The Wedding Planner, Liberty Heights) is the focus here, taking the majority of the screen time. It's also amusing to watch director Peter Hyams (End of Days, The Relic) strip the book of all of its swashbuckling sense of adventure and political intrigue to make it into what ends up on screen. It seems that with each additional adaptation, what could be a great story loses out even more.

In the Musketeer, D'Artagnan's personal quest is to be a Musketeer like his father. When he was a child, Febre (Tim Roth, Planet of the Apes, Bread and Roses) murdered his parents in front of him. Now, Febre is Cardinal Richelieu's (Stephen Rea, The End of the Affair, Guinevere) lackey. Richelieu is plotting to overthrow the King and Queen (Catherine Deneuve, Dancer in the Dark, East-West, in an utterly wasted performance). Sadly, much of this is not readily apparent in the movie, and never matters that much in the story. Richelieu disbanded the King's Musketeers, replacing them with his own guard. D'Artagnan meets Porthos, Athos and Aramis, and immediately sets out proving his mettle. Constance Bonacieux (Mena Suvari, American Pie 2, Sugar & Spice), a maid with the ear of the queen (uh, okay) sidetracks him in his quest. The Queen and Constance convince D'Artagnan to escort her to a clandestine meeting. Meanwhile, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis set out to free the Musketeers without D'Artagnan's help.

For a movie with an awful lot of plot, there is not much substance in Gene Quintano's (Sudden Death, Operation Dumbo Drop). One of the large problems is Chambers. He does not have the acting ability to take on such a role, and Quintano's bad lines only add to the pain. Most of the dialogue in groan-inducing, with only a few zingers thrown in. Quintano is happy enough to have the characters throw bad puns at each other in lame attempts at male bonding. It's sad to see Deneuve and Roth with nothing to work with. Rea just looks annoyed to be there. D'Artagnan's personal quest for success and vengeance rings surprisingly hollow and anticlimactic, and his romance with Constance feels forced. Quintano and Hyams reduce the story to one of rescuing a damsel in distress.

There are two good things about The Musketeer. First, Hyams decided to 'modernize' some of the action using fight choreography by Hong Kong master Xin Xin Xiong. What is immediately apparent is the speed of the fighting. The swords flash by lightning quick on the screen, as opposed to the more genteel dueling present in other movies. There is a palpable element of danger in these fights. Over-the-top, almost theatric stunts also make their appearance, notably in chase sequences and the finale, which takes place in a room full of ladders. They are fun to watch, but sometimes stretch credulity too far. The other element is the look of the movie. The Musketeer shows a more realistic Paris than the bright, clean Paris of other movies. This Paris is dark and grimy. Hyams uses lighting sparsely, giving the movie a mysterious, eerie look to great effect. Is this enough to make The Musketeer worth watching? No.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and some sexual material.

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