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Overall Rating
3.19

Awesome: 13.04%
Worth A Look: 15.94%
Average55.07%
Pretty Bad: 8.7%
Total Crap: 7.25%

3 reviews, 51 user ratings


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Man in the Iron Mask, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Two Leos are not better than one."
3 stars

'The Man in the Iron Mask' arrived at the perfect time to capitalize on the Leo-mania left in the wake of 'Titanic.' Here's Leonardo DiCaprio, the late-'90s heartthrob for teenage girls, in not one but two roles.

Unfortunately, neither of those roles is terribly interesting -- at least not as rewritten by rookie director Randall Wallace (he wrote the script for Braveheart) from the Alexandre Dumas novel. DiCaprio is stuck playing a cardboard villain, the young and contemptible Louis XIV, and his virtuous twin brother Philippe, who's been in prison for six years hidden behind the iron mask of the title. The former role requires a lot of pouting and bad attitude, the latter a fair helping of doe-eyed innocence and purity unsullied by imprisonment.

This Iron Mask isn't any more of a desecration than any of the other recent Literature 90210 movies, like Great Expectations or DiCaprio's own Romeo + Juliet. And, given that generations of readers have taken Dumas' books as rousing adventure stories, one can't accuse Randall Wallace of oversimplifying great art. The movie is fast-paced and colloquial, and Wallace delivers a meat-and-potatoes costume adventure. But I was still bored, my attention wandering to such improper questions as whether the twin brothers had the same hair extensions.

One problem is that, in this telling, we don't care much about Louis or Philippe. Much more interesting, potentially, are the aging musketeers -- D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Athos (John Malkovich), and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) -- who yearn for their long-gone swashbuckling days and must decide what to do when the king they've sworn to serve is a little twerp who couldn't care less that the people of France are starving. D'Artagnan is closer to the king (and to the Queen Mother, played by Anne Parillaud) than are his former confederates, who plot to remove Louis and replace him with Philippe.

The casting of the musketeers is hit-and-miss. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Depardieu is the only one of them who actually is French, and you watch him up there with the other Brits and Americans and think, "What's this French guy doing here?" Nevertheless, his rude-boy performance (he's like John Belushi dropped into the midst of Masterpiece Theatre) is the best reason to see the movie, and Jeremy Irons continues to have one of the most exquisite voices in sound films; I was tempted several times to close my eyes and enjoy his phrasing of such otherwise dull lines as "I will kill him and the man who told me about him."

The other two musketeers are a problem. Malkovich, at this point, can't be bothered to create a character. He just shows up on the set and reads his lines in the same dead, fey voice he's used in every movie from The Killing Fields to Con Air. And Byrne's performance as the conflicted D'Artagnan seems too close to his Tom Regan in Miller's Crossing -- I kept expecting him to dream about a hat. I was glad to see the British comedian Hugh Laurie as one of Louis' yes-men, but he's killed off almost as soon as he's introduced. Unfortunately, Judith Godrèche doesn't share that fate; she plays Christine, a sweet, poor girl whom Louis steals from Athos's son, and she's like a French Demi Moore -- with all the blandness that implies.

Speaking of blandness: Leonardo DiCaprio's career seems to be regressing. Once capable of complex work in This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, he now appears to be trapped in his new role as the late-'90s cover boy. Certainly The Man in the Iron Mask milks the hell out of him. He was aggressively awful as the bratty Rimbaud in Total Eclipse, but I'd almost rather see that again -- at least it was an attempt at something challenging and different -- than Leo's pretty-boy performances here. He needs to work with someone like John Waters, who paved the way for Johnny Depp to transcend his dreamboat image by parodying it.

'The Man in the Iron Mask' verges on unconscious parody. I like DiCaprio, and I wish he'd take off the iron mask of stardom and show us his real face again.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=129&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/15/07 15:03:17
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User Comments

9/12/13 sisie damn hair extensions distracted me...blah acting...ho hum movie 2 stars
5/06/12 Dr.Lao There are much better film versions of this story 3 stars
4/10/09 Dane Youssef Not a bad film. Not a good one. Totally unremarkable, despite cast, set and costume. 3 stars
11/12/08 Amanda Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne and John Malkovich. Who needs Leo? 5 stars
9/08/08 Lucy Well, we know that when it comes to Leonardo DiCiaprio, you suck at fortune telling. 3 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White second rate remake 3 stars
1/10/07 johnnyfog Ha ha!! You tried to ruin it DiCaprio, but you couldn't! Not this time!! 5 stars
12/16/06 Michele I love all of the musketeers 5 stars
9/07/06 Albert he had that mask on for how long? still no pimples,no dirt,no facial hair,no way........... 1 stars
5/07/06 chienne Sumptuous sets & costumes; fab older actors; LDiC?? Who? 3 stars
2/18/05 steve newman I still cant make my mindup - i would not watch it again thats for sure 2 stars
2/05/05 Alice Colwell good movie 4 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 1 stars
8/13/04 marvin ok 5 stars
6/20/04 LINDY LOU KOCIANI I LOVE GABRIEL BYRNE I CANT HELP IT HES SO BEAUTIFUL.... WHEN IS HE COMING TO TORONTO 5 stars
2/29/04 bob a boooey ok 4 stars
11/29/03 john pretty good script even if it borders on a soap opera at times - some nice location work 4 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald actors seem to be having a glorious time, but the audience doesn't always get to join them 3 stars
2/27/03 Francy an average adventure movie but for the writers: take a look at history! 3 stars
2/24/03 Mary D One of the best 4 stars
1/11/03 Linda Kociancic wondrful i didnt care much about the movie just the way gabriel & jeremy looked !:-0 5 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Pretty to watch, and the movie is nice looking too 4 stars
7/12/02 KMG SAD: You have 4 talented, proven men jumping on the wagon to support the Leo craze 3 stars
6/19/02 Charles R.L. Power Somebody someday should try Dumas's version 2 stars
4/10/02 The Grinch A good old-fashioned adventure. Fun and funny. Worth seeing again. 5 stars
3/24/02 Butterbean See The Count of Monte Cristo for a better movie based on a Dumas novel 3 stars
10/31/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Bad, Unimaginative Movie With Fair Acting. 2 stars
10/03/01 Anna Eschen The best film i´ve ever seen!!!!!! Gabriel Byrne was the best!!!He is fantastically 4 stars
9/22/01 Allison Torok i loved it it was kewl 5 stars
6/15/01 Bada Bing Crosby Good costume drama helped by Leo's star power & Bryne's presence 4 stars
5/08/01 Gracy Lionheart This movie just didn't capture the book fully. An average movie worth watching once. 3 stars
2/13/01 Richard Wright Anyone who likes this wouldn't know a good historical drama if it smacked them in the face. 2 stars
1/24/01 dave Underhill no where near as good as the richard chamberlin version! the original story is the only + 3 stars
11/12/00 Ground Zero okay, woulda been better if they took out DiCaprio :P 3 stars
7/25/00 Terrie Smith Not a bad time-waster; Gabriel Byrne has the best role. Irons, Malkovich & Depardieu wasted 3 stars
5/13/00 Daria Although quite decent, this movie never feels to be more than a celebrity dress-up party 3 stars
4/14/00 yankee decent, Dicaprio plays a good ass, Malkovich is excellent, 3 stars
3/09/00 David Rogers Way better than Titanic, but that bisexual DiCaprio was in it. 3 stars
1/27/00 spunky Look out teeny boppers! Your Leo star's in this film TWICE! 3 stars
1/27/00 PervertedPixie Fun, fopish Frolics! Nice job for a remake. 4 stars
10/30/99 Bozo go fuck your mother, all you leo haters 5 stars
9/06/99 Weird Andy No Dumas adaptation should ever be so flaccid. 1 stars
4/28/99 Count de Money What a RIP OFF. Old version is much better! Should've put the mask on both DiCrapios! 1 stars
2/19/99 Piz nice swashbuckler that got a bad rap cause of Leonardo-bashers. 4 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink That was no man!!! That was a girl!!! The title is wrong!! 3 stars
10/17/98 Sailor Moon Ate My Balls Malkovich couldn't get any worse 3 stars
10/15/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! the directing got sloppy,story got tiresome and LEO is a shit actor !!! 3 stars
10/01/98 katherine i like this story, but at times it got sorta dumb. 4 stars
8/24/98 JenniferLorraine "Screw you guys... I'm going home" I liked it, and not for looks. Was a good story. 4 stars
8/23/98 Mister Whoopee Double Leo is twice as much as I can take. 2 stars
8/15/98 {{{OZ}}} The greatest cast, but such a fuck up self indulgence it pains me. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Mar-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Mar-2001

UK
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Australia
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