2001, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Peter Hyams. Starring Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stefan Jürgens, Jan Gregor Kremp, Stepve Speirs.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 7, 2001
Immediately after sitting through Peter Hyams' resourcefully awful “reimagining” of Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of King Louis, Cardinal Richelieu, and the little problems of state that make them whine, I felt compelled to revisit Richard Lester's excellent, bravura 1973 film The Three Musketeers, which I assumed would be playing on American Movie Classics when I got home, because it always is. It wasn't, however, so I went to bed and dreamed of a world where actors who treat the role of D'Artagnan as if it were a rehearsal for a better gig as Keanu Reeves (I'm speaking to you, Justin Chambers) are hastily skewered on their own dull, un-rapier-like wits and left for crow's food in the noonday sun. It was a much more pleasant experience than watching Hyams' film, I assure you. So unspeakably awful is The Musketeer that I was tempted to pursue my own course of systematic demolishment of the film's non-charms, but why waste all that energy when I could be clearing my mental palate with a few choice viewings of the aformentioned Lester version, or, even better, anything featuring a young Errol Flynn. Sir, I know D'Artagnan, and you, sir, are no D'Artagnan. (D'Artagnan the surfer, maybe, but that's another Troma film for another day, I think). Hyams' film has many, many bad aspects to it, but the two most obvious: first, the hideous casting of Chambers as the revengeful wannabe Musketeer D'Artagnan, who, like little Conan the Barbarian, saw his parents slaughtered by the local right bastard (in this case it's Tim Roth's craven Febre, who, frankly, can't hold a candle to James Earl Jones' Thulsa Doom) and consequently embarks on a lifelong vendetta; and second, Suvari's flirty servant girl, the Musketoid's love interest and all-around lash-flutterer. Both of them seem to have wandered in from some other film, possibly a Pauly Shore vehicle, acting as though they'd never acted before. It's enough to make you long for the droll charms of, oh, Pauly Shore. To be fair, Rea's cunning stunter Cardinal Richelieu and Deneuve's French-accented Spanish Queen are choice characterizations, and these two pros bring considerable talent to the roles. Tim Roth, as the Cardinal's psychotic toady Febre, fares less well; he's a black leather-clad mincer, this one, and seems forever on the verge of gleefully rubbing his hands together, Snidely Whiplash-style. He ought to get a room with the Sheriff of Nottingham and have at it already. Hyams' film has the real Musketeers -- Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (Kremp, Speirs, Moran) -- drunk half the time, as they're out of work at the moment, but they rally toward the end and help to save the day, if not the film. Working from a script composed entirely of profoundly bad one-liners and lengthy, incomprehensible exposition (care of screenwriter Gene Quintano), the actors engage in Hong Kong-style fight scenes, all of which are framed in medium shots so that you never can tell who's beating on whom. It gets worse, but why speak ill of the soon-to-be-forgotten? If this is Hyams' idea of a “reimagining,” perhaps his imagination is best left unexplored.