Swashbuckling films have been around since films have been around, and many feel they have run their course. In fact, the timeless classic "The Count of Monte Cristo" has been done on more than one occasion, and you can only do a movie so many times. Then again, has it reached that point? The answer is no. Kevin Reynolds's The Count of Monte Cristo is a refreshing reminder that remakes can be good.
2002's The Count of Monte Cristo has no explosions. It has no swearing. It doesn't have many cheesy one-liners. In most respects, it is not the typical remake that we have come to expect, where a story set hundreds of years ago turns out to be a modern story with a historical backdrop. No, this version of The Count of Monte Cristo is pure and true enough to the times that it is not blatantly obvious that it is trying to sell a remake to the masses. These swashbuckling flicks can turn out to be quite cheesy (see last year's The Musketeer), but thankfully this one is serious enough to be taken seriously, but lighthearted enough that the whole family can go and see it.
Jim Caviezel stars as Edmond Dantes, the hero of the story who turns into the Count. Caviezel triumphed in The Thin Red Line and Frequency but fell flat on his face in Angel Eyes, and has a very shaky career overall. So it is nice to see him do a solid performance, one where he is very convincing and likeable as the hero, even though the hero is enacting the darkest of revenge stories. I really liked Caviezel here, even though it was probably based upon him that it was decided that none of the actors should use French accents, even though all of the characters are supposed to be French.
Guy Pearce also delivers a good, if not great performance. He's nowhere as on target as he was in Memento, but he's good enough to play the movie's lead villain.
The Count of Monte Cristo is exciting, entertaining, and honestly, a lot better than I expected. The first half of the movie is noticeably better than the second half, but that's because the first half is so much different and more adventurous, as it deals with Dantes attempting to escape from prison. The second half is good, but by this point, the movie is overflowing with storylines, really none of which can be wrapped up thoroughly. The movie tries to tackle as much as possible, but some of Dantes' long-planned revenge schemes come so quickly that you can't help but feel that the story is being rushed along at a faster pace than it was supposed to be. Don't get me wrong - the movie is still entertaining - but most things just work out too well and too conveniently. Why is it that Dantes' ex-lover recognizes him immediately but the villain (Pearce), who used to be his best friend, does not?
The Count of Monte Cristo is a surprisingly good movie with some great adventure sequences and a story that has spanned centuries. It's biggest flaw is that it lacks French accents, and that's really not much of a flaw.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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