The Count of Monte Cristo (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/04/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 131 mins

Enjoyable swashbuckler that’s similar to The Mask of Zorro in that it benefits from being played mostly straight – it’s well made with good performances and some impressive set pieces including a stunning Gratuitous Balloon Entrance.

Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is similar to the same author’s more famous cousin, The Three Musketeers, in that every so often, some suit in Hollywood dusts it down and decides to have another crack at it.

This time round, directorial duties are handled by Kevin Reynolds, a director with proven swashbuckling credentials (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) but an understandably low profile since the disaster that was Waterworld. Luckily, however, this time round, Kevin Costner (with whom he’d clashed repeatedly on both films) is nowhere to be found and the result is an enjoyable swashbuckler that delivers in all the right places.

Jim "No Naked Ladies, Please" Caveziel –the actor gained a certain notoriety recently by insisting Jennifer Lopez keep her clothes on for a nude scene- plays naïve sailor Edmond Dantes. He thinks he has it made – a beautiful fiancée (Dagmara Domincyzk), his childhood best friend by his side (Guy Pearce as Fernand Mondego) and a shot at being made captain.

However, jealous Mondego is not the friend that Dantes thinks he is and when Dantes is entrusted with a secret letter to deliver, Mondego has him imprisoned for that time-honoured plot standby, the ‘crime he did not commit’.

Sure enough, Dantes promptly spends the next thirteen years in a remote island prison, with only yearly floggings by the superbly cast Michael Wincott to look forward to. That is until the day that fellow prisoner Faria (Richard Harris) tunnels into his cell by mistake and winds up teaching him philosophy, swordsmanship, table manners and a few other essentials, such as how to read and write. He also clues him into a map revealing the location of The Treasure of Monte Cristo…

Thus, when Dantes finally escapes from prison, he tracks down the treasure, picks up a Comedy Sidekick (the always excellent Luis Guzman) along the way and returns to wreak his revenge, buying himself an enormous mansion and styling himself as The Count of Monte Cristo. And then he discovers that Fernand has married his fiancée…

A film like this is going to stand or fall on two things: the quality of the performances and the amount of swash being buckled. Fortunately, The Count of Monte Cristo delivers on both counts.

Caveziel makes an excellent lead – he has extremely expressive eyes that suggest just a hint of madness, which comes in handy during the later revenge sequences. A swashbuckler also needs a suitably hissable villain, however, and Guy Pearce is more than up to the task, camping it up for all he’s worth in fine Sheriff of Nottingham tradition. (Naturally, he gets all the best lines).

The support cast are good too. Michael Wincott makes his understandably brief role unforgettably nasty and Harris and Guzman both provide some choice moments. There’s also good support from James Frain as the conniving magistrate in league with Fernand.

Finally, it has to be said, Dagmara Domincyzk is extremely easy on the eye, here graduating to lead roles after making a memorable impression by snogging both Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston in Rock Star.

The set pieces don’t disappoint either – the sword-fights are impressively staged and the prison escape sequence is suitably thrilling. Similarly, just occasionally, Reynolds throws in a wonderfully off-the-wall touch, such as the Count’s Gratuitous Balloon Entrance and it’s these little touches that elevate the film above run-of-the-mill territory.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect film (some of the ‘funny’ lines, for example, seem tacked on as an afterthought), but the combination of impressive set design, solid direction and good performances make this a decent swashbuckling adventure movie in the same vein as The Mask Of Zorro. Recommended.

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The Count of Monte Cristo (12)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 19:43

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