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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.63%
Worth A Look41.98%
Average: 13.58%
Pretty Bad: 13.58%
Total Crap: 1.23%

6 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Count of Monte Cristo, The
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by Brian McKay

"Dumas Lite: Less filling, still tastes pretty good."
4 stars

For about the fifty-thousandth goddamn time, someone decided to do yet another movie based on one of legendary French novelist Alexander Dumas’ “big three”. This time around, it’s the “Count of Monte Cristo” (since last year’s “The Musketeer” was such an abysmal failure). And who’s sitting in the canvas chair this time? Why it’s the man who directed “Waterworld”, the most overpriced and underwhelming action movie ever. Yeah, this oughta be good *snicker* - Holy shit . . . it actually kind of is!

Of course, this is not to say that it’s completely faithful to the book, because it’s not. It’s been so long since I read the book, I can barely remember it, but I know it didn’t exactly go down like this. Still, when you’re expecting another piece of coal, it’s a pleasant surprise to find, if not a diamond, than a shiny and fairly well-made piece of cubic zirconium. It’s not that I chose not to see this in the theater when it came out, but rather that I wasn’t even aware of its existence. This one completely slipped under my radar. It probably slipped under a lot of other people’s radar as well, since we’ve all seen this story a dozen times over the years (and some of us have maybe even read it – what a “novel” concept!). No lie, this thing has been remade SIXTEEN times, and been fodder for three T.V. series over the decades.

But it turns out, this ain’t all that bad. Not GREAT . . . but not bad. I’m sure most of you know the story. I’ll give the Cliff Notes.

Our hero is Edmond (James Caviezel), a simple clerk’s son in Napoleonic France who, through hard work and integrity, has won a captaincy of a merchant vessel, and the hand of his pretty but bland fiancée’ Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk – say that 10 times fast). This irks his best “friend” Fernand (Guy Pearce) to no end. He’s a rich man’s son, all appetite and no real ambition. You can tell in the first frame that he is going to be a right bastard, and this is one of the film’s shortcomings. Did his villainy have to be so plainly transparent from the beginning? They could have at least made us believe he was really his friend until he sprung the betrayal on poor dumb Edmond – even if we do all know how the goddamn story goes.

So, long story short, Fernand has Edmond falsely accused of treason and sent away to some island prison to rot for eternity (it’s more complicated than that, but this is the Cliff’s Notes version, remember). In prison, Edmond meets another wrongly accused political prisoner known as The Priest (Richard Harris). They make a pact – if Edmond will help the priest dig a tunnel out, the Priest will teach Edmond how to read, write, behave like a gentleman, and above all, master the sword.

A bunch of stuff happens, and Edmond escapes. Turns out that the priest also knew where a massive load of treasure was buried on the isle of Monte Cristo, and gave Edmond a map. Upon his escape, our protagonist falls in with a merry band of pirates, travels the world for a couple of years, eventually retrieves the treasure, assumes the identity of “The Count of Monte Cristo”, and plans his painstaking revenge against all who done him wrong. That’s all in just the first hour.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this story, maybe more than could ever realistically be expected to fit within a modest two hours. But the effort here is noteworthy, and there are some nice, humorous touches. Caviezel, who I’d never thought too highly of, does a fairly competent job. He’s better in the beginning, as the dumb innocent - and he really is dumb. When the authorities tell him he’s free to go, and have him step into a carriage that will take him home, he doesn’t realize his “carriage” is a prison wagon until after he’s climbed inside and sat down for a minute. “Uh, hey guys, wait a minute, why does this carriage have an uncomfortable seat and bars on the windows?” However, as the story progresses, we feel his anguish and can enjoy his transformation from innocent dupe to smooth and revenge-bent man about town.

Meanwhile, Guy Pearce, after doing so well in films like Memento and L.A. Confidential, seems to be phoning it in again. You know, the guy was born in the UK and has an English accent in real life, but the guy’s English accent on film sounds completely fake compared to his American accent when he was doing better films just a few years ago. He’s roughly serviceable as the villain here, but certainly nowhere near intriguing. Likewise, the love interest is completely forgettable, so much so that I’ve already forgotten her.

What makes this movie just a little extra special, however, are the nice little touches from the supporting cast. Harris is good (as usual) as the mentor figure. Michael Wincott (The Crow, Strange Days) turns in a non-surprising but still enjoyable part as a sadistic prison warden (although when has this motherfucker ever NOT played someone sadistic). JB Blanc, in his first major film role, is a bit of fun as Luigi, the pirate captain who befriends Edmond. And the always enjoyable Luis Guzman is nice sidekick material as the pirate Jacopo who, after having had his life spared by Edmond, swears “On the lives of my dead relatives, and even the ones who aren’t feeling so good, I am your man!”. Sure, he comes off like “An East L.A. Vato in Emperor Napoleon’s court”, but he provides some decent comic relief, so we can overlook a few anachronistic mannerisms.

Like I said, there are flaws, to be sure. Like the fact that nobody recognizes the Count for who he really is, except of course for his long-lost fiancée’ who married his scumbag friend a month after Edmond was declared executed even though she never stopped pining for him. I mean, even someone as self-centered as Fernand would surely recognize the friend he had grown up with and then betrayed, even after 15 years. (Of course, they weren’t childhood friends in the book, but that’s another story). But then, I don’t know if I’d recognize anyone I went to high school with anymore, so maybe it’s not so far-fetched after all. But at any rate, when it comes to your standard (and substandard) Dumas adaptations, you can do (and probably have done) a lot worse.

Drive-In Triple Feature Swashbuckling Wine-swilling Cheesehead Picks for The Count of Monte Cristo:

When speaking of film adaptations of Dumas’ work, there are only two sparkling examples that come to mind. In 1973, director Richard Lester captured lightning in a bottle with The Three Musketeers. A year later, he miraculously did it again with The Four Musketeers, one of the rare sequels that is every bit as good as the original. Of course, Lester had a trick up his sleeve – He filmed them both at once as one movie, then split them up and released them separately because of the length. Nevertheless, these are the best goddamn Musketeer movies you’ll ever see, hands down. They have just the right mix of drama, wit, comedy (both physical and verbal), and swashbuckling high-adventure action. The all-star cast is perfect, including a young Michael York at the top of his game as D'Artagnan, as well as excellent performances from Oliver Reed as the brooding and wine-sopped Athos, Richard Chamberlain as the smooth ladies man Aramis, and Frank Findlay as the bumbling but loveable Porthos. Add to the roster Raquel Welch as Constance (D'Artagnan’s betrothed), Chuck “You Goddamn Maniacs” Heston as the scheming Cardinal, and Faye Dunaway as feminine evil incarnate herself, Milady De Winter, and you’ve got yourself a top-notch comedy/adventure that puts to shame all this Disneyfied Kung-Fu remake bullshit, and captures the spirit that Dumas intended.

Although it’s a bit light on the swashbuckling (there’s really only one decent swordfight at the end, and it’s pitifully short), it at least has an intriguing first hour, a not quite as good but still enjoyable second hour, and some fun moments throughout thanks to a bit of clever writing and some decent casting.

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originally posted: 09/29/02 19:13:46
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User Comments

12/07/21 James Hall Quite good, but not a masterpiece. Fun, and very well acted. Definitely worth watching. 4 stars
12/17/18 Ajpwales Good movie well told simple tale. 4 stars
4/24/12 dsfasasd klsadf jsadf jas df jasdf ;j asd f Great book terrible movie 4 stars
2/28/11 brian EVERYTHING worth seeing a movie for. 5 stars
7/28/10 the dork knight Too much swashbuckling. Ignores the real MEAT of the story 3 stars
8/15/09 zaira it's really a nice movie, it reminds us that "jesus will give us the just justice!" 5 stars
12/08/08 Joshua it is nice and good movie 4 stars
7/18/07 johnnyfog Great first half, awesome cast. Gets pretty dull by the end though... 4 stars
5/22/06 R.W.Welch Good production of the old revenge yarn tho it lacks the dash of the 30's version. 4 stars
2/07/06 Paul Horine Nice design and acting 5 stars
8/12/05 ES This is probably the best telling of one of the best stories ever told= awesome 5 stars
3/29/05 tatum Big, grand, old fashioned film entertainment 5 stars
2/25/05 ALDO Enjoyed it heaps... 5 stars
1/13/05 victor hernandez the muvie is greate and I recomendet to enibody 5 stars
11/17/04 ? <('o'<) (^'o'^) (>'o')> 5 stars
7/18/04 Jason J Lynch A fine classic that's not outdated nor too updated. 5 stars
6/21/04 Rock Hound Not as good as the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED version (c. 1964?). Was that balloon in the book? 3 stars
1/02/03 The Freshmaker Pales in comparison to the Richard Chamberlain version for TV... 2 stars
11/06/02 Bob Vloon A simplistic version of Dumas' great story. Read the book. 2 stars
9/27/02 John McNew Smart, fun, but ultimately predictable and tiresome after the first hour and a half 3 stars
9/15/02 syrius kicks ass 5 stars
5/25/02 Pearce is the sexiest man alive... grrrrrr ;-) 4 stars
5/24/02 Marcia Lartz Superb and tense thriller. Well acted and with good scene design. 5 stars
3/24/02 Lala It's like the Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies; it's great, just change the title. 4 stars
2/18/02 Nuse090 it was all i ever wanted from a hollywood movie 5 stars
2/17/02 AgentDS It's a feast for the eyes its elegance. And a welcome departure from a cynical world. 4 stars
2/17/02 ToneCapone Really good movie. Entertains throughout. 4 stars
2/15/02 Kooler Gorgeous, swash-buckling good times. But what is with Guy Pearce's hair? 4 stars
2/12/02 seldom scene tremendous action and not preachy with beautiful settings 5 stars
2/11/02 ngacpro Sneaky good and very entertaining. 4 stars
2/09/02 Meryl Kopy Bleeeech. 2 stars
1/31/02 Zertaut Dopey simplification, and Caviezel is boring, but Guy's great and the girl is beautiful 3 stars
1/31/02 Solonor Rasreth Egad! How far can you stray from the original? Pretty far, it seems. 2 stars
1/30/02 Butterbean So what if the book wasn't followed. I liked this movie! 4 stars
1/29/02 Jesus Christ I condemn this movie. 2 stars
1/29/02 rogue James Caviezel has found new respect as an actor in my book 5 stars
1/28/02 Joe Too bad it's not eligible for 2001 oscars! Awesome 5 stars
1/28/02 Carter Very entertaining 5 stars
1/27/02 Titus Good fun, some funny bits, very enjoyable 4 stars
1/26/02 Brenda Awesomely entertaining. Go see it! 5 stars
1/26/02 bill excellent entertainment 5 stars
1/26/02 Gibbo Guy Pierce is just wonderful - an interesting story 4 stars
1/23/02 Buddy41 A good ride - good story - good acting - rcommended 4 stars
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  25-Jan-2002 (PG-13)



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