out of 4
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The Man in the Iron Mask
Review by Mark Fleming
3 stars out of 4
Like their 70's counterparts realized by Michael York, Frank Finlay,
Richard Chamberlain and Oliver Reed, these Musketeers are similarly
incarnated as a quartet of gallant, swaggering swashbucklers, constantly
banging-on about honour and codes of conduct. (Paradoxically, they also
tend to ignore rules.)
In this loose adaptation of another of Dumas' tales, the musketeers have
been disbanded. Gabriel Byrne is bodyguard to King Louis XIV (Leonardo
Di Caprio), a spoilt brat. The titular masked man is, in fact, Louis's
twin Phillipe, condemned to a dungeon by the likelihood of bloody civil
war were his true identity ever discovered.
Director Randall Wallace spares no expense in painting a meticulous
portrait of court life at a time when an aristocratic minority enjoyed
lavish opulence, while Parisians starved.
The four main players seize the opportunity to portray the brave but flawed
heroes who decide they must topple the corrupt despot. The twist here is
that D'Artagnan initially refuses to join their quest, seeing his loyalty
to his King as over-riding.
This creates an internal conflict never seen in Musketeer movies. But,
as the story unfolds through some spirited adventures, D'Artagnan has
reasons of his own for worrying about the identity of the rightful heir.
The main players give sound performances, and Depardiu's hard-drinking,
hard-farting, womanizing Porthos harks back to the bawdy irreverence of
those early 70's versions.
In his first outing after the spectacular success of 'Titanic,' Di Caprio
relishes playing the King as a heartless, narcissistic tyrant. As Phillippe,
he is the polar opposite: hesitant, diffident.
The plot hems the Musketeers into corners on many occasions, yet they still
come out on top. The swordfights are excellent, physical affairs; far
more satisfying than Basil Rathbone daintily flicking his epee at
A rollicking adventure set against magnificent backdrops and carried by its
four main players performing just the right side of ham.
Copyright © 2001 Mark Fleming
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