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Guilty Pleasures



Directed by: Peter Hyams

Main Cast:
Catherine Deneuve as Anne, Queen of France
Justin Chambers as D’Artagnan
Mena Suvari as Francesca Bonacieux
Stephen Rea as Cardinal Richelieu
Tim Roth as Febre
Nick Moran as Aramis
Steven Spiers as Porthos
Jan Gregor Kremp as Athos

“All for one and one for all!”

To sum up: Having watched his parents been brutally murdered as a child, D’Artagnioun, becomes a man and vows his revenge.

     Finally, there comes a movie that answers a number of questions that I’ve had for some time. Where do musketeers go in order to learn their great fencing skills? Apparently, they go to Hong Kong. Is there a male acting equivalent to the bland, un-expressionless Liv Tyler? Yep. His name is Justin Chambers and he plays the main character D’Artagnan. And finally, is there a movie that sucks worse than Pearl Harbor? You betcha!
     This is the umpteenth version of the Three Musketeers based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and it is clear that it is only loosely based at that.
The film starts with little D’Artagnan practicing fencing with his father while mom sets out dinner. In rides Tim Roth as Febre “The Bad Guy” and under the guise of collecting taxes, kills both of little D’Artagnan’s parents in front of him. Little D’Artagnan picks up a sword and parts Febre with his left eye. In response, Febre LETS HIM LIVE!! Don’t these people watch plays? Don’t they read books? Doesn’t he realize that now little D’Artagnan is going to grow up and devote his life to the study of fencing and appear before him many years later saying, “Hello. My name is D’Artagnan. You killed my parents. Prepare to die?"
     After this “horrifying” act, Febre and his evil troop ride off and in rides…some-one; an older gentleman who decides to raise little D’Artagnan and teach him to live with the honor and code of a Musketeer. Lucky for those who dropped eight bucks, that apparently includes vengeance or it would be a pretty boring movie.
     What we have just seen is the prologue. I know this from watching Star Trek. I almost got up in anticipation of a commercial but then remembered where I was. Let me say that these are the oddest opening credits I’ve seen in a long time. They occur over a series of grainy stills from the film. It really felt like TV.
     After this silly introduction, we are back to the film. I would spend more time expounding on the plot but why take more time describing the plot than they did writing it.
     There are two problems with this movie besides the plot. Well, actually there are more but I’ll only deal with these two.
     Number one is the lead actor. Justin Chambers as D’Artagnan is, I’m sorry to say, just bland, bland, bland. Oh, sure he’s pretty to look at and has a way with the action but Spock had more emotion than this guy. At one point, after a bout of swimming loveplay with Mena Suvari, his ladylove in the film, Febre rides in and captures her and catches him literally up to his neck in a lake. How does Justin play this scene? Does he get angry? Does he seethe with controlled rage and warn Febre against the dangers of harming her? Darned if I can tell. And that’s the problem. I can’t tell. No emotion at all. I know we want to avoid the dangers of overacting but we need to feel something from the performance. “Don’t harm her or I’ll be forced to emote.”
     The other big problem is the action. This is supposed to be a fun swashbuckling adventure and personally loving these types of films, I should be an easy sucker to real in. But there isn’t much that’s fun about this film.
     The fight scenes were choreographed by Xiong Xin Xin and in my opinion, it was a big mistake. Hong Kong choreography should not be in this film. It clashes like an old 70’s leisure suit. It produces a stylistic feel that is simply more ridiculous than creative. On top of this, all of the scenes are darkly lit and claustrophobic. Apparently the rule was to film tight on the action and dub in the sounds of many swords clanging together and hope that this would produce excitement.
     Another scene dealt with a jailbreak and our escaping heroes mount a carriage and escape in the nick of time at a break-neck speed of what appeared to be 10 miles an hour. The prison guards give up the pursuit; after all they’re a whole 20 feet in front of them. “They’re very slowly getting away.”
     This was a mess of a film full of talented people who apparently were there to get a paycheck. It’s hard to understand how you can drop the ball with a proven story and a director who has shown talent in the past, but they manage to do it.
     Skip this one kiddies.

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