Review Date: 9/28/01
Director: Peter Hyams
Stunt Choreographer: Xin Xin Xiong
Music: David Arnold
Cast: Justin Chambers, Catherine Deneuve, Tim Roth, Mena Suvari
Whose idea was it to make this cinematic absurdity? A European period piece with Chinese swordplay and wuxia sensibilities - imagine "The Three Musketeers" as a kung fu movie. On a certain level it works as camp entertainment, but the execution is awkward and lacking. Reportedly the thirteenth retelling of Alexandre Dumas's original work, the story follows the life of a young boy whose parents were brutally murdered before his eyes. He learns and excels at swordsmanship, and vows to kill his parents' murderer. He travels to Paris to join the king's loyal guards, the famous Musketeers, but they've been shamed and disbanded by a corrupt and power hungry Cardinal. He eventually succeeds in bringing the Musketeers back together, rescuing the Queen of France, averting a war with England, winning the hand of the fairest maiden in all the countryside (Mena Suvari), and avenging his parents' deaths.
From the horrible opening credits you realize that what you're watching amounts to little more than a TV movie with all of its trappings. Calvin Klein model Justin Chambers is a poor actor and isn't even that attractive or charismatic. However, he's young and athletic, and maybe that's all that the filmmakers were looking for. He handles his action scenes well, but seems to stumble through everything else. The only actors who lend any sense of class and credibility to the film are Catherine Deneuve and the gleefully sinister Tim Roth. Xin Xin Xiong's action choreography is flashy and frantic, but the over-the-top Hong Kong style seems glaringly out of place. Most of the sword fighting is quite good, with the highlight being a very spirited exchange between Chambers and Roth (or more likely, their stunt doubles) at the end of the film. (Tim Roth was doubled by Xin Xin Xiong himself) Unfortunately, this quickly devolves into a direct rip-off of the final showdown in Tsui Hark's "Once Upon A Time In China" (1991). While the climax is technically impressive, it's too gimmicky to take seriously and it completely devalues the conflict between the two men (and just what kind of bullet-proof corset was Mena Suvari wearing anyway?). If nothing else, the film serves as an interesting study in the cross pollinization of Eastern and Western film styles.