With The Musketeer, we are subjected to yet another retelling of the classic Alexandre Dumas' story of love, loyalty and daring swordsmen. Unfortunately, it offers nothing new save some cool Crouching Tiger-esque sword fights.
As with any good Musketeer movie, there's the dashing D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) who comes to Paris to become one of the sworn protectors of the French crown. Once there, he meets up with the relic Musketeers, lead by the motley three: Aramis (Nick Moran), Porthos (Steven Speirs) and Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp) and discovers they are being forced to disband by the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea). Where the movie takes some big liberties with Dumas' tale is in creating an ulterior motive for D'Artagnan--to find and kill Richelieu's head henchmen, Febre (Tim Roth), who murdered D'Artagnan's parents long ago. Sorry, folks, that's not in the book, but it does give us a proper villain, with a nasty scar. While Richelieu only wants to discredit the King, it's the evil Febre who plans to kill the Queen of France (Catherine Deneuve) to start war with England. But not if D'Artagnan and his band of Musketeers can stop him first, by golly.
As in the other movies, this Musketeer's success lies squarely on the charismatic shoulders of the D'Artagnan character. Although newcomer Chambers (The Wedding Planner) does a worthy job, he certainly won't be remembered as being the best D'Artagnan ever. Luckily, he uses his brawn more than his brain in the film. As well, the love scenes between D'Artagnan and Francesca, played by the bland Mena Suvari, truly lacked any chemistry whatsoever. Aren't Musketeer films suppose to be all about the lust as well as the action? The three older and wiser Musketeers (played by virtual unknowns) are usually a fun addition to any Musketeer movie. But here they weren't able to add the necessary color due to some serious lack of screen time. Roth has perfected the bad guy image to a tee, but even he overdoes it in this film. But Deneuve is simply a beautiful actress, if completely underused as the Queen of France.
Starting with some pretty awful opening titles, the film doesn't really pick up from there. Apparently, the filmmakers really did care much about story structure or even following Dumas' classic tale. They concentrated on the action instead, hiring hot Hong Kong stunt choreographer Xin Xin Xiong to stage some fairly impressive sword fight scenes--but there were not enough of them. And what happens in between will make you look at your watch quite often. It wasn't clear exactly what the movie wanted to be. On the one hand, we had the story of D'Artagnan, which is very loosely based on the Dumas' character, who wants to avenge his parents' death. On the other was the truer Dumas' story about political corruption and loyalty, and neither story meshed. Musketeers are a subject from which too many movies have been made, and even staging a sword fight while swinging around on ladders can't make up for a lackluster story.
If sword fighting is something you like, be prepared for some great fight sequences in The Musketeer. But also be prepared to sit through an hour and a half of drudge to wait for them.