Well, at least it seemed like a good idea. Given the success of films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" someone got the idea to combine a story about the Musketeers with Hong Kong-style action choreography. Yet, as with most mediocre pictures today, the film's problems start at the screenplay level and branch out from there. It's a film that doesn't live up to its trailer - the 120 second clip seemed more exciting than the nearly 120 minute movie.
The film revolves around D'Artagnan, who has recently arrived in Paris after going through fight training, seeking to become a Musketeer - and seeking to settle an old score with Febre (Tim Roth, seemingly sensing the material isn't particularly good), who is the henchman of Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea), who is trying to sieze power. It's up to D'Artagnan to save the king and queen.
Certainly, those who saw the trailer for the film in theaters understandibly thought that the film was an energetic update of Alexandre Dumas' classic. The reality is that the fighting scenes are generally quite good - choreographed by Hong Kong choreographer Xin Xin Xiong. They're also about only 20 minutes of the movie. The rest is, quite frankly, horrible. There are several problems, the greatest of which is the performance by Chambers. We are supposed to care about the quest of this character, but it's such a generic, dull performance that I personally couldn't care less. I'm suprised that someone who doesn't show acting ability and has hardly been in anything else was allowed to carry a film. A chemistry-free romance between Chambers and a chambermaid played by Mena Suvari adds nothing to the proceedings; Suvari feels particularly out-of-place. The rest of the performances are nothing special, either; Stephen Rea and Catherine Deneuve give little energy in their roles.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. The screenplay by Gene Quintano is downright awful, made up completely of aimless chatter or poor one-liners that often get bad laughs. Hyams has never been particularly well-regarded as a director and that doesn't really change here, either. The tone of Hyams' film is so downright somber that the film never really becomes fun in the slightest.
VIDEO: "The Musketeer" is presented by Universal Home Video in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is, aside from a few minor concerns, up to expectations. Sharpness and detail are usually solid, but inconsistent - the picture could look crisp and well-defined with nice depth and there were also moments where it could appear flat and slightly soft.
Aside from the occasional softness, there wasn't much else to complain about. Edge enhancement was infrequently visible and not particularly irritating, while no pixelation was seen and only brief print flaws. Slight grain is seen at a few random moments, as well. Colors were strongly brown and orange during a fair amount of the interior/night scenes and could occasionally appear slightly heavy and smeared. Otherwise, the bright, outdoor scenes generally provided more natural colors that were crisper.
SOUND: "The Musketeer" is presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Given that the previous films from director Hyams have contained exceptional surround-sound presentations ("Relic", for example), it's a bit dissapointing that "The Musketeer" remains a rather weak audio experience. The audio is inconsistently enveloping; the majority of the film sticks heavily towards the front speakers, but there are sudden scenes that actually provide some decent ambient sound in the surrounds. The overall impression was not a satisfied one - the film really does have some moments where the rear speakers could have been put to more work.
While the surrounds remained more subdued than I'd like, the sound designers apparently thought that the amount of bass would add to the excitement of the film. Uh, no. While I certainly have no trouble with an appropriate amount of low-bass in an action film such as this one, the amount seemed absurd at times. Otherwise, audio quality seemed fine; the score came through cleanly, while dialogue generally sounded clear - although it could sound a bit muffled here and there.
MENUS: Very basic film-themed images serve as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: Two basic featurettes: "The Stunts" and "Casting Justin Chambers" (that was a mistake!); trailer (DD 5.1), production notes and cast/crew bios.
Final Thoughts: "The Musketeer" is a spiritless piece that gets a few hits of energy from the well-choreographed fight scenes, but remains very dull otherwise. Universal's DVD provides fine audio and decent video quality, accompanied by minimal supplements. Not recommended.
The Film *