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The Count of Monte Cristo (Kevin Reynolds) 2002
Between The Count of Monte Cristo and the recently
released The Brotherhood of the Wolf, I’m about to reach my saturation
point when it comes to garish French action flicks. Slightly better than last
week’s offering (if mostly by virtue of being a half hour shorter), the old
school Cristo manages to still come up short. The film too often assumes
a tone that’s too amplified to allow any sort of emotional resonance. That
this mindless swashbuckler has generally rotten acting doesn’t help either.
Especially hammy is Guy Pierce as Mondego, the villain of the piece. From his
first scene, he’s swilling liquor and dispensing snide remarks with such
regularity that he’s obviously evil. It doesn’t help much that his
character’s motivation is so unfocused. What causes his betrayal? Is it sexual
jealousy? Is it class rage? Is it the petulance of a too spoiled brat? Rather
than combining all of these possibilities to forge a complex character, the
screenplay leaves him scattershot. It’s disappointing then that the film’s
“hero” is allowed to pick up much of the slack. Jim Caviezel plays Edmund
Dantes without any nuance. He seems religious only so he can eventually renounce
it. His character goes in one scene from an insufferably noble goody two-shoes
to a mean spirited madman that’s so cold blooded that he barely breaks a sweat
in the sauna and rarely modulates between those two extremes.
Some turns in the supporting cast are more successful.
Richard Harris has a good turn as Dantes’ Mr. Miyagi and the scenes in which
he teaches his pupil to read and fight are the film’s best. Unfortunately, he
also has to deliver the most insufferable line in the entire film (“I think…
my lungs were punctured” – ugh!). Luis Guzman is also entertaining here.
Surely seeing someone of his stature in a knife fight is entertaining, and his
amusing asides indulge the lowbrow impulses that this action film obviously
wants to but rarely does in its push toward middlebrow literariness. On those
accounts it fails, however since everything seems to have been obviously
calculated to prompts us to shake our fists in the air in disdain or pump them
in the air in a frenzied cheer. If only because it’s shorter, however, the
decent effort that is The Count of Monte Crisco is a better swashbuckler
than Brotherhood. It’s a shame that there isn’t more to endorse the
film with than that.