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The Musketeer (2001)



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This has to be the worst mainstream adaptation of an Alexander Dumas novel ever made. The Musketeer, loosely based on The Three Musketeers is laughably preposterous, or at least it would be laughable if it were not so excruciating. It attempts to marry the well-known story with Jackie Chan-style fights and stunts, which may be sacrilegious to purists, but I found it an intriguing approach. The novel has been filmed many times, successfully, and I was interested in this new twist on the material.

But to associate the action in The Musketeer with Jackie Chan is to misunderstand, on a fundamental level, what makes Chan's work...well, work. There is no self-effacing humor here. There is no charisma. In fact, the stunts themselves are not very impressive. The fighting is purely mechanical, like acrobats performing an over-rehearsed circus act with blunted blades and safety nets. The action sequences aren't even logical. Consider a scene in which D'Artagnan ascends a rope dangling out of a tower window. Suddenly, faceless badguys plummet out of the window on their own ropes to engage him in swinging swordfighting. Personally, I would have sliced his rope, let him plunge to his death, and been done with it. Shortly afterward comes the most mechanical and unconvincing action scene of all, in which embittered foes are flying all around on a dozen or so ladders, all packed into a room for the seemingly sole purpose of lending swordfighters with goofy props. It's a scene lifted straight out of Once Upon a Time In China, only stupid.

Even if one can stomach the action scenes, the moments in between are just as barren. There isn't one single likeable or interesting character. And why, when one has a classic novel to draw from, should a screenplay force its characters to utter such awful lines? The filmmakers clearly do not understand the material. One senses they don't even believe in it.

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