Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:45 - Released 9/7/01

Just when we didn't need another film version of Alexandre Dumas's classic novel The Three Musketeers, here comes one. Director Peter Hyams (2010, End Of Days) oversees yet another retelling of the famous "all for one/one for all" story, adapted for the screen by Gene Quintano, whose writing credits include such venerable titles as Police Academy 3 and Operation Dumbo Drop. The Musketeer offers beautiful sets and costumes with Crouching Tiger- inspired combat choreography by Xin Xin Xiong, but suffers from lackluster performances by almost its entire cast. Hyams is hoping that the newfangled wall-climbing swordplay will compensate for the inexperience of the young and relatively unknown cast members populating most of the central roles. It doesn't.

This story of 17th-century French fencer D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) and his enlistment in the king's elite guard known as the Musketeers (who, by the way, don't carry muskets) is a slow, plodding affair with little to recommend it beyond the inventive action scenes and the oppulent set decoration. Chambers and his romantic opposite, American Pie/Beauty Mena Suvari, create zero chemistry in their supposed passion for each other, and the film's main villain, played by Tim Roth, is well over the top. Roth seems to be competing with himself; his character is basically a French version of his Gen. Thade (from Planet Of The Apes) in the overacting category. Except this time he's wearing leather instead of rubber.

The film's opening text informs us that in the mid 1600s, France's King Louis XIII (Daniel Mesguich), suffering from illness, is weak and ineffective, and the country is really being run by his devious chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea). In fact, Richelieu has appointed his own guardsmen to replace the king's aging and increasingly powerless musketeers, and he has also enlisted the bloodthirsty mercenary Febre (Roth) to agitate tensions between France and Spain.

D'Artagnan has harbored a grudge for Febre from the moment he watched the rogue officer kill his parents. Now a man, the young swordsman meets up with musketeers Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp), Porthos (Steven Spiers), and Aramis (Nick Moran), whose main hobbies seem to be drinking, throwing knives at a picture of the cardinal, and squabbling among themselves. Hoping to join their group and wage battle against the cardinal's guard, he helps them free their leader from prison. Impressed by his swordplay and re-invigorated by his youthful exuberance, they again take up arms against their dastardly foe in the red riding hood. But just as the musketeers plan a major fight to thwart Febre's plan to murder the British Lord Buckingham (Jeremy Clyde), D'Artagnan disappears into the woods. On a special mission. With his girlfriend and the queen. Oh, yeah.

As swashbuckling action movies go, this film is about as average as you can get. It provides fight scenes in all sorts of unnecessarily difficult places (roof beams, carriage tops, tall ladders, etc.), but if you're looking for thoughtful acting or an insightful script, you might want to look elsewhere. Occasional attempts at humor usually fall flat, and the principal actors seem to be waiting for a more interesting part to come their way. Chambers is bland and Roth is overbaked. Rea plays his character as if he's either distracted or stoned; ditto for Suvari. And the supporting musketeers are largely interchangeable. Though it may appeal to fans of swordplay and Hong-Kong-flavored action choreography, this film is definitely not One For All. ***

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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