Fun in the old swashbuckling tradition
29 January 2002
This is no ground-breaking film and there is no need for it to be. This is escapist entertainment, pure and simple, but it (thankfully) lacks the common escapist elements of recent years of mind-numbing explosions, gunfire, and yelling. Monte Cristo harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood where Errol Flynn crossed swords with Basil Rathbone and won Olivia de Havilland in the end. The plot is as old as time and was once the most popular play on the American stage. I was completely unfamiliar with the plot, but as I watched the movie, I knew exactly what was going to happen next. Far from being annoyed by this, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The old Errol Flynn movies had paper-thin plots as well, but it was the personalities that made it worth watching and in this version of Monte Cristo, the actors are eminently watchable. Jim Caviezel is the sympathetic hero, manipulated at first by his enemies, but ultimately becoming the architect of his destiny. Guy Pearce evokes memories of past villians who were badder than bad, their sarcasm as deadly as their motives or their sword. Richard Harris was a delight and, along with Luiz Gusman, contributed the right amount of levity to the dark drama. The only performer who could have improved their performance was Dagmara Dominczyk. She had very limited mobility of expression and was quite pale and forgettable. Her habit of barely moving her lips, resulting in a monotone voice quickly grew tiresome. But since the female characters in these dramas are in general uninteresting, I expected little more than what she gave. I thought the sets and costumes were extremely well-chosen and photographed and the action moved at a good pace. I sat in the theater with a big smile on my face and didn't feel cheated of my money. I hope this movie will jumpstart more entries in the swashbuckler genre. This and the Bandares Zorro are completely worthy of Errol Flynn's crown.

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