Dir: Peter Hyams. US. 2001. 104mins.
Though it boasts a potentially interesting international cast and a couple of acrobatic action scenes, The Musketeer is for the most part a muddled and forgettable new version of the classic Alexandre Dumas tale (more usually presented, of course, as The Three Musketeers) that has acted as regular movie fodder for the past 80 years. Neither sexy enough for teens nor strong enough in the action or drama departments for adults, this latest take on the swashbuckling 17th century yarn looks set for a short theatrical life in the US (where Universal has picked it up for distribution). The cast might help in a few international territories - notably the UK and France - but even there the film's prospects are probably better on video and TV than in cinemas.
As the title suggests, the emphasis here is on young Musketeer wannabe D'Artagnan (after whom the independently-produced film was originally named in the international sales marketplace). Having witnessed the murder of his parents by the evil Febre (Roth), the adult D'Artagnan (newcomer Chambers) goes to Paris to get revenge and to rouse his father's former Musketeer colleagues against Febre and the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Rea). The motivation for the struggle is Richelieu's attempt to gain power over the King of France, but The Musketeer makes short and often very confusing work of explaining the story's political intrigues.
Chambers (seen earlier this year in The Wedding Planner) is an appealing enough young action hero, but he doesn't yet have the charisma required by the film's new spin on Dumas' plot. In contrast to earlier versions of the story, the three experienced Musketeers are background figures here, with only Nick Moran (from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) getting a substantial part as the sarcastically witty Aramis. Rea and Deneuve (as the French Queen) are used sparingly in thin roles and Roth coasts as the standard-issue black-clad villain. Suvari (from American Beauty) plays pretty young royal confidant Francesca. D'Artagnan, however, seems more enamoured of his horse than her.
The heavily-touted fight scenes were choreographed by Hong Kong action veteran Xin-Xin Xiong (Time And Tide, The Colony). Mixing period swordplay with martial arts moves certainly sounds like an intriguing idea (akin to the juxtaposition of jousting and rock in A Knight's Tale) and the film does come up with two fairly original action sequences that effectively blend the styles. Much of the action, though, is based around stunts that are as old as the Musketeer franchise itself.
Prod cos: D'Artagnan Productions Ltd, Apollomedia, Q&Q Media, Carousel Picture Company.
Dist US: Universal Pictures
Intl sales: MDP Worldwide
Prod: Moshe Diamant.
Exec prods: Mark Damon, Steven Paul, Rudy Cohen, Frank Hubner, Roman Schroeder.
Scr: Gene Quintano.
Director of Photography: Peter Hyams.
Prod design: Philip Harrison
Ed: Terry Rawlings
Music: David Arnold
Main cast: Justin Chambers, Tim Roth, Stephen Rea, Mena Suvari, Catherine Deneuve.