Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale The Three Musketeers gets the Hong Kong-action style treatment in this pretty well made film from director Peter Hyams. Featuring a combination of veterans and fresh faces, the film is highlighted by the influence of Hong Kong auteur Tsui Hark with its climatic fight sequence.
Years ago, a family is ravaged by the likes of the evil Febre, a swordsman working for the traitorous Cardinal Richelieu. However, before Febre could escape, he is scarred by the only survivor of the family, a young boy named D’Artagnan. The young boy would be raised by family friend Planchet, where he would learn the necessary skills to eventually in his father’s footsteps as one of the royal guards known as the Musketeers.
In the present day, a now grown-up D’Artagnan heads to Paris with Planchet in hopes to become a Musketeer. Along the way, he finds himself constantly challenged. When he finally arrives to Paris, he learns that the Musketeers have been suspended from service by Richelieu. Richelieu is attempting to cause a war between England and France in order to take the throne from King Louis XIII. When Queen Anne has a plan to meet England’s representative for peace, Richelieu sends Febre to go after her and her lady-in-waiting Francesca, who falls for the young D’Artagnan. When Queen Anne succeeds in her mission, Francesca is kidnapped by Febre. It is now up to D’Artagnan and three Musketeers, Aramis, Athos, and Porthos to learn the rest of the royal guards into battle against the evil Febre. For D’Artagnan, going after Febre would not only restore honor to France, but it would also mean avenging the death of his parents.
Alexandre Dumas’ tale of The Three Musketeers have been told in numerous forms of celluloid. From the classic 1948 film with Gene Kelly to the 1993 Disney adaptation with Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland, the story is truly legendary. With this version of the classic, the idea was to not only tell the classic tale of how the young upstart D’Artagnan leads the Musketeers into action, but bring it to a whole new level of swashbuckling action. Peter Hyams truly did an impressive job as both director and cinematographer, combining the Hong Kong-style action with the Hollywood style of classic swashbucklers.
Playing the young D’Artagnan is Justin Chambers, who slightly resembles Chris O’Donnell’s D’Artagnan from the 1993 Disney adaptation. Here, the young upstart is given the most screen time as a young swordsman who is not only looking to restore the peace between France and England, but at the same time seek revenge for the death of his parents. Playing the violence-loving Febre is veteran Tim Roth. For some reason, Roth loves to breathe the scents of evil when he takes on a villain role. Roth is great at the black-clad swashbuckling nemesis who thrives on blood. Stephen Rea plays the evil yet subtle Cardinal Richelieu, who wants to overthrow the King of France by engaging in a war between France and England so the church can take over the throne. This time, the love interest comes in the form of maiden Francesca, played by Mena Suvari. She doesn’t really offer much to the table except practically being eye candy while legendary French actress Catherine Denueve plays Queen Anne, who in one scene is given her own brand of action when she shoots at bad guys with a classic pistol.
The Three Musketeers are more of a comic relief in the film. Aramis, played by Nick Moran, seems to be sarcastic for the most part yet when it comes time to unleash against the Cardinal’s men, strives into action like his counterpart Porthos, played well by Steve Speirs. The only Musketeer who really doesn’t offer much of anything is Athos, played by Jan Gregor Kremp. It is as if he is only there because he is one of the Three Musketeers. Comparing this to the 1993 adaptation, where Kiefer Sutherland’s Athos has a major role in a film, seems somewhat of a role reversal.
The sword fighting of the film is the piece de resistance of the film, courtesy of Hong Kong-based fight choreographer and veteran action Xiong Xin-Xin. The former “Clubfoot” of the Once Upon a Time in China series brings in some wire enhancements for some of the acrobatic movements while at the same time, brings in elements of his traditional martial art of wushu when it comes to the sword wielding. Veteran stuntman Tao Qian is impressive as Chambers’ fight double while Xiong himself would double for Roth’s Febre. The climatic swordfight between D’Artagnan and Febre is a welcome homage to Tsui Hark’s classic, where the two battle it out in a roomful of ladders.
In conclusion, while many may see The Musketeer as just another retread of a classic story, the Hong Kong style action is quite nicely done despite some overdosed wire stunts. However, the nice homage to Once Upon a Time in China is quite delightful.
WFG RATING: B
Universal Pictures and MDP Worldwide present a Crystal Sky/Signature Entertainment/D’Artagnan Productions Film in association with ApolloMedia/Q&Q Medien GmbH/Carousel Picture Company/The Luxembourg Film Fund. Director: Peter Hyams. Producer: Moshe Diamant. Writer: Gene Quintano; based on the novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas. Cinematography: Peter Hyams. Editing: Terry Rawlings.
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Tim Roth, Justin Chambers, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Bill Treacher, Nick Moran, Steve Speirs, Jan-Gregor Kremp, Jeremy Clyde, Daniel Mesguich, David Schofield.