THE MASK OF ZORRO
If Hopkins makes the story important, Antonio Banderas and Catherine
Zeta-Jones make it sexy. Their mutual attraction is thick from the start,
and the fact that they're both so easy on the eyes doesn't hurt. The mood
is well captured by the beating sun and the recurring strains of "Malagueña."
The heat, the dust, and the political tension of mid-19th Century California
are intense. And that is thanks to director Martin Campbell.
As the film begins, Mexico (which includes the California territory)
is poised to wrest itself free of Spain's political influence. The heartless
Spanish governor, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), has set a trap for
the masked man who continually vexes the oppresive government. Just when
Montero is about to execute three innocent peasants, Zorro (Hopkins) appears
and saves them, to the cheers of the grateful populace. But he is soon captured
and imprisoned, and his cherished baby daughter Elena stolen, to be reared
by Montero. Zorro's real identity is Don Diego de la Vega, a landowner who
betrayed his counterparts on behalf of the poverty-stricken people, and
therefore is branded a traitor to his class.
After twenty years has passed with de la Vega in prison, he escapes and
meets a petty criminal named Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas), whose brother
has been killed by Montero's army commander, Captain Harrison Love (Matthew
Letscher). Alejandro has sworn a vendetta to Captain Love, but lacks the
control to carry it out. Desperate to find the now adult Elena (Zeta-Jones),
de la Vega decides to teach Alejandro the ways of the masked avenger, and
the two form a friendship.
Knowing Hopkins's age and the roles he has performed, it is rather amusing
to see him in the opening scenes of this movie, wearing his cape and buckling
his swash. I could not help being reminded of William Shatner, still trying
to be sexy as Captain Kirk after all these years. The sideburns undoubtedly
added to this similarity. But he is classy and venerable as the older Zorro,
and Banderas provides an apt contrast, being young and impetuous, full of
dash. There is humor ever-present in the script, written by Terry Rossio
& Ted Elliott and John Eskow, and the action is overdone, as is appropriate
for the style. Wilson and Letscher provide adequately two-dimensional villains,
and Zeta-Jones, as expected, is a knockout.
The fact that most of the events in this film are unlikely if not impossible doesn't really matter. Even though one can't really leap onto the back of a horse from two stories above or fight off a dozen armed soldiers using nothing but a whip, Zorro is like Superman; he is not supposed to be realistic. So with that in mind, I found the film a lot of fun and full of energy. ****
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