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The Count of Monte Cristo
Stars: James Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Henry Cavill, Dagmara Dominiczyk, James Frain, Richard Harris, Michael Wincott and Albie Woodington
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Scriptwriter: Jay Wolpert
Buena Vista Pictures
Running time: two hours
Rating: PG 13 for sensuality and violence

Alexander Dumas (The Three Musketeers) must be doing a slow turn somewhere. This version of The Count of Monte Cristo has two good actors going for it and that's about it This critic protests when 18th century films use modern day dialogue as toss-away expressions. I almost expected to hear “Cool, man” in this film. Oh, there is plenty of adventure, intrigue, secrecy, swordplay, lust and ambition here, but most of the cast either doesn't act or plays the whole thing for laughs. Even Richard Harris (Gladiator) has his ridiculous moments, but James Caviezel (Frequency) and Guy Pearce (Memento) do their roles just right. 

Caviezel plays Edmund Dantes who is falsely imprisoned in a stone torture chamber for 13 years while his former best friend, Pearce, marries Edmund's love and proceeds to have a life. Edmund meets a wayward priest in prison and they plan an escape. Unfortunately, the old man dies, but Edmund manages to get away, finds a hidden fortune and proceeds to plot revenge. Everyone thinks he is dead by this time.

The basic plot is great, but Hollywood brings in bells and whistles, such as Edmund making his entrance into society by way of a hot air balloon, and his servant buying a mansion with a cartload of gold coins. Despite this, Caviezel succeeds in making us care for his character so we want revenge right along with him. His brooding looks and wounded persona make him the ideal actor to portray Christ. On the other side is Pearce as Edmund's longtime friend who is jealous of anything Edmund has and doesn't bat an eye at anything to reach his ambition. One can almost sympathize with Pearce as a man wounded inside and not knowing how to heal it. The rest of the cast might as well have packed it in and gone home. Dagmar Dominiczyk as Edmund's love has as much emotion as wallpaper and Henry Cavill as her son looks like a poster boy for good health. When Pearce and Caviezel finally meet, sitting through the first part of the film is finally worthwhile. There is swordplay galore with sufficient surprises to end the film. Revenge may be sweet as one eats on it for years, but in the end, it can be a bitter fruit. 

The deepest flaw of this movie is characterized by the studio representative collecting comments after the private film critics screening. That person did not know that (a) there was a novel BEFORE the film, in fact, way before the film (1844), or (b) its author, “Alexander, who?” was Alexander Dumas, one of France’s greatest romantic authors. **sigh**

Copyright 2002 Marie Asner 1/15/2002


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