The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

2002, PG-13, 131 min. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Starring Guy Pearce, Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Luis Guzman, Michael Wincott.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 25, 2002

It's surely only a random twist of fate, but for a while during the first half of this, the umpteenth recent retooling of an Alexandre Dumas novel, Jim Caviezel, as wrongfully imprisoned hero Edmund Dantes, bears a striking resemblance to current state prisoner John Walker. The wild mane of dark hair, the tangled beard, and the cowed and fevered glare are virtually identical in both these traitors. Dantes, of course, is a fictional character and wasn't even a traitor to begin with -- that's why he's so fixated on the whole notion of revenge as redemption -- while Walker's story promises to rival Dumas' legendary plot twists even at this early stage. I mention this strange and wholly unexpected similarity between the two as a means of noting that this version of The Count of Monty Cristo is actually two, two, two films in one. Initially, director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) cleaves to the bone of Dumas' novel. The dashing (if common) Dantes is betrayed by his nobleman buddy Fernand Mondego (Pearce of Memento) and, amid the sort of convoluted but exhilarating plotting that made Dumas a high school favorite, finds himself banished from the arms of his fiancée Mercedes (Dominczyk) to an island prison where he eventually ends up spending 13 long years dining on rat and learning the finer points of Machiavelli from fellow layabout Richard Harris. Meanwhile, Mondego convinces Mercedes that her betrothed has been executed, marries her, has a son, kills people, develops some serious monogamy issues, and adapts a poncey accent. That's the first movie. The second begins with Dantes' escape and rebirth as the ludicrously wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. With his trusty comic sidekick Luis Guzman at his side, this second film is rife with modern-day wisecracking and silly asides that border on the schticky. It's as if Reynolds couldn't decide which style of film he wanted to make, and the combination of the two makes for a jarring, if frequently entertaining, hybrid. Guzman, in particular, looks ill-suited to this sort of swashbuckling role; his work with Steven Soderbergh clings to his performance here like Day-Glo spider webs. Pearce, too, plays things broadly, although Harris' inner lunatic provides a far more interesting mentor to Dantes. Only Caviezel acquits himself admirably and with a modicum of fuss. He plays Dantes as though he were continually engaged in some inner debate on the merits of beard versus clean-shaven, with occasional forays into damp-browed brooding, and oddly enough it works. Reynolds' film, on the other hand, tends toward the schizophrenic. The action is tight and well-shot, the editing clean and full of verve, but those misplaced Guzman cracks tend to leave you feeling as though you're watching a split personality case talk to himself in a dark room. More fun than Peter Hyams' The Musketeer, and somewhat less so than The Man in the Iron Mask, this is middling Dumas all the way.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Kevin Reynolds
The Constancy of Sorrow
The Constancy of Sorrow
Native Texan Kevin Reynolds taps loss of innocence, from Cold War Commies to 'The Count of Monte Cristo'

Marc Savlov, May 8, 2009

More Kevin Reynolds Films
A Roman soldier is sent to track a rumor about the Christ's resurrection

Marc Savlov, Feb. 26, 2016

Tristan & Isolde
This new version of the timeless love story is a dopey, mopey, all-around bore.

Kimberley Jones, Jan. 13, 2006

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


The Count of Monte Cristo, Kevin Reynolds, Guy Pearce, Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Dagmara Dominczyk, Luis Guzman, Michael Wincott

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle