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Mask of Zorro

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Mask of Zorro

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Martin Campbell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: Action, Romance

*Also starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Gitta Alpar, Maury Chaykin, Tony Amendola, Pedro Armendariz Jr.

Review by Greg King
4 stars out of 4

Lacking new ideas, producers have always found inspiration in the past, plundering classic movies and tv series. But, more often than not, these contemporary remakes fail to capture the spirit of the original and largely fall short of expectations. Not so The Mask Of Zorro, which revives the legendary character first created in 1919 by crime writer Johnston McCulley.

This lavishly staged big budget adventure also remains faithful to the spirit and flavour of those Zorro movies of yesteryear which starred Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power as the masked avenger who fought against Spanish tyranny in nineteenth century California. The first major Zorro movie produced in Hollywood for over forty years, The Mask Of Zorro is an entertaining and crowd pleasing romp. There are plenty of sword fights and chases throughout this pacy film. Unlike most modern action films, the violence is low key and restrained. This updated Zorro also contains enough tongue in cheek moments and sly humour to keep audiences chuckling throughout.

Spanish actor Antonio Banderas steps into the title role, and he captures the flamboyant swashbuckling spirit of the film perfectly.

The film begins in 1821. Don Diego (Anthony Hopkins), the nobleman who fights injustice as Zorro, finds himself arrested by his nemesis, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson, from Lethal Weapon 3, etc). The despotic governor of California has been ordered to return to Spain, and takes a cruel revenge on Zorro for past humiliations. Don Diego's wife is killed and Don Rafael takes his baby daughter Elena away to raise as his own. Zorro himself is imprisoned, and the potential for rebellion is crushed.

Twenty years later, Don Rafael returns with a nefarious scheme to purchase California from Mexico. Don Diego manages to escape from prison, but he is too old and tired to continue the fight. He trains Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas), an incompetent and hot headed thief, to become his protégé and don the guise of Zorro. Once again the legendary Zorro rides out to vanquish the enemy and offer the people hope.

Brit Martin Campbell (who also directed Goldeneye, the best Bond movie in two decades) is perfectly suited to the demands of the action genre. He maintains a rapid pace throughout, and the numerous action scenes are superbly handled. The sword duels are terrific stuff, and staged with gusto.

Hopkins seems to be enjoying himself immensely in this rare action outing, and he brings a touch of authority to his role as the older Zorro. He also manages to bring some emotional depth to his performance that makes his tragic sorrow and personal vendetta credible. His sword fight trainer, Bob Anderson, also worked with Erroll Flynn on The Master Of Ballantrae forty-five years ago.

Banderas is perfectly cast as Zorro, and brings flair and a swarthy sexuality and physical presence to the role. In her first major role, Zeta-Jones exudes a raw sexuality as the feisty Elena, although her performance occasionally smacks of a contemporary flavour. Zeta-Jones and Banderas establish a wonderful chemistry, and their scenes together positively smoulder and sparkle.

This modern remake of Zorro is cracking good fun, and enormously entertaining. One suspects that Fairbanks, Power, and even tv's famous Zorro Guy Williams, would have approved wholeheartedly!

Copyright © 2000 Greg King

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