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Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth, Justin Chambers, David Schofield, Mena Suvari
Screenplay: Gene Quintano, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas

Tagline: As you've never seen it before.
Box Office: Budget $40 million. Opening weekend $10.312 million on 2438 screens. Domestic gross $27.053 million.
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and some sexual material.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 2/26/2002

• "Casting Justin Chambers" Featurette
• "The Stunts" Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Filmmaker Biographies
• DVD-ROM Features

Score soundtrack

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The Musketeer (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

If anyone ever compiles a list of the properties which have spawned the most cinematic tellings, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers must reside near the top. This classic story pops up quite frequently, and every new filmmaker tries to put his own spin on it. Actually, Dumas wrote a lot of much-redone material, as both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man In the Iron Mask both have been rehashed endlessly as well.

With the newest iteration of the musketeers’ tale, director Peter Hyams attempts to give the plot a twist and make it fresh for the 21st century. Does he succeed? Nope. At times silly, at times plodding, The Musketeer offered a dull and meandering experience that never threatened to become anything interesting.

At the start of The Musketeer, we meet young D’Artagnan (Max Dolbey) and his parents. D’Artagnan’s dad (Luc Gentil) was a musketeer for the king, but ambitious Cardinal Richelieu (Steven Rea) wants to undermine the royal authority, and the musketeers have fallen on hard times. Richelieu’s enforcer Febre (Tim Roth) has a run in with the family and offs both D’Artagnan’s dad and mom (Catherine Erhardy) after the kid disables Febre’s left eye.

Taken to live with family friend Planchet (Jean-Pierre Castaldi), D’Artagnan swears revenge and learns the tricks of the fighting trade. When he grows up, the young adult (played by Justin Chambers) aspires to join the musketeers but finds resistance from main surviving members Aramis (Nick Moran), Porthos (Steven Spiers) and Athos (Jan Gregor Kemp). Richelieu’s disbanded the force, and they remain suspicious toward the young upstart.

Essentially the film follows his various trials by fire, especially as he attempts to rescue the monarchy. Febre has gone out of control and wants to kill the queen (Catherine Deneuve) and a British emissary named Buckingham (Jeremy Clyde). D’Artangnan finds himself at the forefront of the fight to protect the queen, get his revenge on Febre, and reinstate the good name of the musketeers.

Phew - that’s a lot for a young dude stuck in a 105-minute movie! In the hands of Hyams, unfortunately, it all adds up to a lot of nothing. Despite the masses of action thrown our way, I found this to be a numbingly dull experience. Even with the pounding soundtrack - more about that later - I literally needed a nap mid-film to make it through The Musketeer; I simply couldn’t stay awake.

Much of the fault there came from its drowsy cast. To be certain, the roster includes some talented performers, but none appear to have brought their “A”-game. Or even their “B”-game - I think The Musketeer landed somewhere around “Q”. Though he has shown the ability to play a juicy baddie in the past, Roth looked quite bored much of the time, while Rea appeared vaguely embarrassed. Deneuve managed a little more spirit, but she couldn’t help elevate the material.

Our main leads totally fell flat. As D’Artagnan’s love interest Francesca, Mena Suvari appeared completely out of place. She stumbled over her dialogue and managed to bring little presence to the role. Suvari can offer a decent personality in teen roles like those she played in American Pie and American Beauty, but she lacks the depth and conviction for anything else.

Still, compared to Chambers’ D’Artagnan, Suvari looked ready for an Oscar. Has there ever been a more leaden and dull leading man? Yeah, the dude’s a hunk, but he showed absolutely no flair or character as D’Artagnan. He couldn’t handle the action scenes well, and he failed as either a passionate swashbuckler or as a romantic lover. In a film packed with blandness, Chambers was the dullest of the dull. He didn’t do badly as a supporting player in 2001’s The Wedding Planner, but he totally flopped here.

As I’ve noted in reviews of past Hyams efforts such as End of Days and Capricorn One, Hyams offers a virtual definition of the journeyman director. He never does anything to make his films stand out from the pack, but nor does he actively harm them.

Unfortunately, that sentiment came to an end during Musketeer due to his terrible choice to revamp the story for the Matrix generation. As choreographed by Xin Xin Xiong, the movie included many action sequences that appeared totally ridiculous within this context. The movie attempted to marry east and west but failed in both regards, as the fight scenes looked silly; it felt like the Asian influence appeared simply to give it some of that Crouching Tiger cachet.

It failed miserably. Hyams lacks the style and ability to pull it off, and Xiong looks like a bad choice based on his résumé. He had the misfortune to work on two terrible flicks with Dennis Rodman: Double Team and Simon Sez. Note to producers: if you want some rockin’ Hong Kong action, hire a guy with better credits!

But I won’t blame Xiong for the utter failure of The Musketeer. It takes many mistakes to make a movie this lousy. On all fronts, The Musketeer totally flops.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus D

The Musketeer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall the film looked pretty good, but it did provide a few concerns at times.

Sharpness generally seemed strong. Occasionally, wide shots appeared somewhat soft, but those instances were rare. For the most part, the picture remained nicely distinct and accurate. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no issues, but edge enhancement marred the presentation at times. Onscreen text seemed somewhat fuzzy, and halos appeared around characters periodically. The edge enhancement wasn’t excessive, but it did occasionally detract from the image.

Print flaws provided no distinct concerns. During the early sequences - which took place in D’Artagnan’s childhood - the image seemed a little grainy and flickery. However, I believe this occurred for stylistic reasons, as the problems didn’t arise during the adult D’Artagnan sequences. Otherwise, the film looked fresh and clean, with no discernible defects.

Colors varied, but they usually seemed clear and vibrant. Much of The Musketeer featured lighting from fire, and those elements appeared nicely warm and lush. However, some daytime exteriors displayed less solid hues. A few of these looked moderately heavy and runny, though most of the scenes were bright and vivid. Black levels appeared deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed appropriately opaque but not excessively thick; the film’s many low-light sequences were quite well rendered. As a whole, The Musketeer offered a good image, but it wasn’t terrific by modern standards.

In regard to the movie’s soundtracks, similar thoughts occurred. As with many Universal DVDs these days, The Musketeer offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. As with most of these cases, I found the two versions to sound virtually identical. To my ears, the Dolby and DTS tracks provided very comparable audio; neither appeared to boast a distinct advantage over the other.

For the most part, the audio seemed good but unexceptional. During much of the movie, the track displayed a moderately heavy orientation toward the forward channels. Within that spectrum, I heard good stereo imaging for the score as well as a reasonably effective soundstage for the effects. Those elements seemed well placed within the environment, and they moved from channel to channel with solid smoothness.

As for the surrounds, they appeared a little passive at times, at least until we got to the climactic fight at the end. Prior to that point, the rear speakers largely stayed with general reinforcement of effects and score; they did well in that regard, but they seemed somewhat tame for this kind of movie. The action picked up by the end, but even then, I didn’t think the track appeared especially involving or engaging. The soundfield got the job done, but it wasn’t anything particularly special.

Audio quality appeared fairly positive. Speech sounded slightly boxy and flat at times, but for the most part, dialogue was distinct and it always came across as intelligible and free of edginess. Music offered the strongest aspect of the track. The score seemed very bright and dynamic and really added some punch to the package. Effects appeared clean and lacked any distortion, but they suffered from excessive bass. Apparently in an attempt to artificially spice up the action, the sound designers went nuts with the LFE channel; almost every punch, fall, or nose-scratch resulted in a loud thump from the subwoofer. This became very distracting and took away from the movie; it became so ridiculously over-amped that the story - thin as it may be - suffered. In the end, the soundtracks of The Musketeer still were strong enough to earn a “B”, but they left me fairly unimpressed.

The Musketeer includes a surprisingly sparse set of supplements. Two featurettes highlight the package. The Stunts offers a very glossy 160-second piece in which we hear a little from director Peter Hyams as well as actors Tim Roth and Justin Chambers. Essentially, they tell us how cool the movie is and how terrific stunt coordinator Xin-Xin Xiong is, and we watch a lot of film clips. It's a glorified trailer and nothing more.

Similarly, the second featurette also includes virtually no real information. Casting Justin Chambers very briefly tells us how the actor got the job, but mostly Hyams and Chambers just gush about the movie. More film snippets ensue in this 110-second glorler. Yawn!

A few small pieces round out the package. We get the movie's theatrical trailer as well as some short and mediocre text production notes. In Cast and Filmmakers, we discover perfunctory biographies of director Hyams as well as actors Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Steven Rea, Roth and Chambers. Though the packaging states that the disc includes DVD-ROM features, all we find are Weblinks for Universal Home Video, Universal Pictures, Universal Studios, Universal Theme Parks, and one that will let you sign up for the Universal DVD newsletter.

Would additional extras have made this set more interesting? Perhaps, but I doubt it. The Musketeer offered a dull and limp experience that never threatened to engage me. Despite flashy visuals and a loud soundtrack, I literally nodded off as I watched it. The DVD provided good picture and sound for the most part, but it lacked any substantial supplements. Unless you just have to see every adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas tale, skip this clunker.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.4642 Stars Number of Votes: 28
11 3:
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