2001 Cert. 15 Available video/DVD. Directed by Peter Hyams.
Reviewed by Simon Frame
What’s it about?
In France ‘in the seventeenth century’, the young D’Artagnan sees Cardinal Richelieu’s evil minion Febre (Tim Roth) kill both of his parents. Determined to become a Musketeer like his dad and get his revenge (sound familiar?), he asks the resourceful family friend Planchet (Jean-Pierre Cartaldi) to teach him to be as good a swordsman and all round hero as his late dad was. Fourteen years later, D’Artagnan (Justin Chambers – a Calvin Klein model apparently) makes his ways to Paris with Planchet to join the Musketeers but finds that as Richelieu (a laid-back Stephen Rea) has suspended them, they idle their days away in the tavern. When Aramis (Nick Moran), Porthos and Athos (the latter two played by, er, whoever) refuse to help him release their imprisoned CO in order to foil Richelieus plan to foment war between France and England and Spain, he sets about doing it all himself.
Is it any good then?
It’s the three musketeers from a slightly different angle. The sets are pretty good, there’s a nice C17th carriage in most of the scenes, and lots of people in funny clothes, but it doesn’t quite grab you like the ‘proper’ Musketeer films. The one-liners don’t really work, and there aren’t those quirky background touches. The usual character suspects are there with a twist – Catherine Deneuve is feisty as the Queen, Mena Suvari pulls stilettos from her drawers in the Francesca role (played by Raquel Welch in the Three Musketeers and so on), and there’s some bloke as Buckingham etc. This time Planchet is a useful sidekick, and Tim Roth plays the evil Febre just like he played the foppish Cunningham in ‘Rob Roy’ though without the fopping, and even Richelieu thinks that he’s completely mad. Look out for Bill ‘Arfur’ Treacher as D’Artagnan's landlord.
If you like Jet Li style martial arts fights (the stunts are organised by Xin Xin Xiong and there were hordes of cunningly disguised Chinese stuntmen doing the fights) and have ever shouted at the screen that someone should pull out a pistol and just shoot the sword-wielding hero/villain like people do in this, then this is the film for you. Think ‘Hidden Cardinals Guard, Crouching Musketeer’.