The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002)
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Jim Outlander Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris
Release date: January 25 (US). Kevin Reynolds! Not heard his name mentioned for awhile, I recall a few of his flicks being suitably entertaining. May not contain Kevin Costner, but definitely spoilers…
Does he still not get on with the Cost-face or what? Actually that’s irrelevant, I’ll just get on with the review-type thing, eh… Having not read the Alexander Dumas novel or watched any of the previous film adaptations (not that I recall anyway), I don’t know how Kevin Reynolds’s The Count Of Monte Cristo compares, favourably or otherwise. I’m not entirely convinced I was watching a film set in the early 1800’s – in that it’s got the Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves sheen applied and like that movie, you’re not supposed to look too deeply into the background detail. This here’s what they call a ‘romp’, although there isn’t all that much romping going on, or buck-swashling for that matter but it does contain a bewildered Luis Guzman so all is forgiven.
It’s a classic revenge tale; (adopt gravelly trailer V.O.) ‘A man wrongly imprisoned… betrayed by the friend he trusted… abandoned by the woman he loves… For 13 years, locked in a dungeon, Edmond Dantes has been consumed by hatred and the will for revenge… Now… his revenge… is at hand…’ I did know the basic story already, except for ‘… the son… he never knew existed…’ Bloody obvious really, Henry Cavill couldn’t possibly look any more like Caviezel if he tried. Also, I didn’t know the circumstances of his imprisonment, that it was a letter from Napoleon (Alex Norton) that kick-starts this whole farrago. Early on, I don’t know if it’s a deliberate visual gag but there’s a shot of Napoleon and Dantes stood together and old Napper barely reaches Jimbo’s shoulder. I started reminiscing about Ian Holm in Time Bandits – the look on his face while he’s watching the midgets on stage singing Me And My Shadow is priceless. No dancing midgets here, alas…
Rewind a minute, I’m not explaining myself properly. What I imply about a ‘Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves sheen’, the sense that I’m not quite in the time… I mean, they’ve got the big sumptuous locations and the costume department has been busy but if I take you back a film, to Brotherhood Of The Wolf, despite the martial arts and whatnot there’s a filmic depth surrounding the characters; it looks lived in, like it’s been there for years whereas Monte Cristo looks created. It’s a visual key, operating on a subconscious level. The other thing that doesn’t help (and Prince Of Thieves also used this) is the presence of modern vernacular – which is like the verbal equivalent of skateboarding in The Lord Of The Rings. There’s nothing specifically wrong with doing it but as a film maker you run the risk of upsetting the visual balance you’ve created. I wish I could give you an example, just a few throwaway lines that certainly wouldn’t be spoken in 1812, or whenever it is. Oh, I’ll tell you one of them; at one point Dantes says to someone, “You should get out more.” Like I say, nothing wrong with it and quite funny considering where he’s been. Just creates an imbalance.
I haven’t got an awful lot to say about Monte Cristo. Tis a good film, but populated by a few ordinary performances. The dungeon scenes are key but it doesn’t feel dank and dirty enough, the stonework looks like what it probably is; foam. It feels false down there. Neither was Dantes’s training by Abbe Faria (Richard Harris) all that convincing. Dantes goes in an idiot and 13 years later comes out a warrior with an intellect to match. Chalk marks on the wall don’t quite sell the passage of time, though the whipping he takes at the hands of warden Dorleac (Michael Wincott) on each anniversary of his prison arrival is a savage touch. The mighty Wincott does exactly what I’ve seen him do already in several other films. Harris seems to be on auto-pilot but I did like his “I’m a priest, not a saint…” line. And of course his character provides the path to a treasure trove that will fund Dantes in his quest for revenge.
Guy Pearce it is who plays Fernand Mondego, best mate of Dantes. My understanding is that Fernand is a schemer, not necessarily a friend – did Reynolds change that for the film? Anyway, Pearce plays him fairly camp… a filthy, snivelling poltroon to boot. And I did want to boot him, repeatedly in the face, so he must’ve been playing it right, particularly his weaselling into the affections of Dantes’s girl, Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). There are no layers; he wants the girl. Pearce isn’t going to paint a character, he’s the Panto villain, that’s all there is. He doesn’t get any funny lines so it’s hard to enjoy wall-to-wall obnoxious smarm and nothing else. His every appearance on screen should have been accompanied with a ‘boo’ on the soundtrack. Look at Cassel in Brotherhood, you know he isn’t nice but there’s more going on behind his eyes, he’s clearly the bad guy but you can’t work him out. Still, I do like the scene of Dantes discovering his betrayal and his subsequent pathetic attempt to fight the vastly superior Fernand. Of course, when they duel again, Dantes will be a more worthy opponent. But it’s that moment of uncomprehending “Why?” from Dantes, then the disdainful reply; “Because you’re the son of a clerk; I’m not supposed to want to be you.”
Luis Guzman… Jacopo is a smuggler whose life has been spared by Dantes when the two are forced to duel by pirates. He and Dantes are now inseparable. Guzman does not know where he’s at, it’s hilarious. The wig they stick on him is a screamer. But, y’know what, he’s ace. He’s patently not Jacopo – when you get Guzman, you get Guzman. The body language, the delivery, in this setting is all wrong. He’s simply not of the time period – like Slater in Prince Of Thieves. Sorry for all these comparisons, the sign of a shit writer who can’t explain himself! But Guzman, you wait for his next appearance, you want him on screen even if it does blow any hope of suspending disbelief. Either everybody is miscast in this or it’s deliberate, to bring the story up to date for a modern audience – ‘Let’s not be po-faced, let’s have some fun’. Somehow, we remain po-faced, Kevin and that’s why Guzman is essential. He’s a sight to behold, in stiff uniform and big hair. When he enters a bedroom and starts acting all embarrassed when he sees the near naked Mercedes, it’s quintessential Guzman.
I didn’t warm to Caviezel’s portrayal at all. For me, he improved once the Count’s clothes went on. I thought he struggled in the dungeon scenes. There’s one moment when he puts two and two together at Faria’s prompting but his anger seems restrained. He knocks a few things around in the cell but it seems to be because he can’t verbally emote. He should’ve thrown in a brief shriek-fit. I wasn’t reading ‘inner strength’ from him. “Don’t rob me of my hate, it’s all I have,” he tells Mercedes. What hate where? He and Dagmara make a nice couple – never heard of her before. She’s natural, especially in their scenes together where he has to pretend he definitely is the Count, not Dantes but still can’t resist a little accusation pertaining to the speed with which she married Fernand after Dantes was imprisoned. Isn’t it obvious, Edmond? Still not the sharpest then, despite all of Richard’s hard work. Another thing is her son, Albert. Cripes, Dagmara doesn’t look all that much older than Henry! She’s his mother? Overall, she’s pretty, but pretty weightless.
Reynolds keeps the action ticking over fairly briskly, at least once we’re out of the dungeons but he does also kick the film off rapidly. I’d be interested to hear from someone who can make a comparison with the source material. On the whole Monte Cristo isn’t terrible, sitting through 125 minutes didn’t pose a challenge. I kind of wish it had. Reynolds joins the dots, doesn’t take any risks, no fresh spins. It’s all comfortable and safe.
Me & My Shadow: http://tinyurl.com/7jm2u77
I’ll give it 2 Luis Bouffants out of 5.
ThereWolf, June 2012
I like this movie. Everything’s pretty solid for me.
Why is “You should get out more.” a modern phrase? Didn’t people “get out” in the 1800’s?
Kev Reynolds directed Kev Costners ‘Hayfields and McCoys’ miniseries.
It’s an Americanism.
He’s right, it is an anachronysim in this film. It’s OK, but I wouldn’t go further with it.
Don’t even know why I made a big thing of the contemporary lingo; doesn’t even bother me generally.
How was that?
How was what? ‘Hayfields & McCoys’?
This sounds ok but needs more oomph. Guzman is always fun, heck he lives a couple hours away from here in Vermont. Not that he would stand out around here or anything …….Pearce was in this and Time Machine that winter, prob his peak.
You’ve got The Guz as a neighbour!
Oh, crap, ‘The Time Machine’ – awful…
I quite enjoyed this when I saw it at the theater. Haven’t revisited it, but suspect it would hold up. Liked Caviezel well enough, and thought that while his count might have been a bit underplayed, it mostly worked. Like Pearce too as the sneering snarling villain. In my mind it plays like one of those Illustrated Classics comic-book versions of a famous story. More pulpy than high-falutin. The modern vernacular here wasn’t as jarring to be a problem for me, and decidedly less so than surfing Legolas or something, but if I had to pinpoint a real culprit for it, it would be Guzman whose line delivery didn’t help because of its modern intonations. Same true for Caviezel who never quite gets his way around the speech.
Still, I think it’s a rather solid little movie, although it isn’t remarkable. Good review Wolf.
Doesn’t do a lot for me, but I don’t hate it. He’s got Creep coming up soon, though (Huzzah) which I really do hate.
Creep is a giant mess, when it should be an easy homerun…Potente chased by a monster in the subway…easy as pie. They ruin it primarily with an incredibly nasty and bland ‘monster’.
Boring. Offensive. TP. Single dimensional characters, shite monster that couldn’t fight sleep.
I can really beat this one up.
Emailed you, by the way, and copied that dude in as well.
Jonah, have you seen Cosmopolis?
What, you not taking Bradshaw’s word for it?
Cockshaws great if you want advice on what films you should avoid. Generally any movie he likes. I don’t know what he thought of Cosmopolis. Didn’t see the review.
Just wondering what Jonah thought of it as he’s probably the only guy whos seen it.
It was lukewarm. Kind of like he wanted to praise it for being about Bankers and whatnot, but couldn’t. It’s a massively overrated book
No, is it good? I did see Beasts of the Southern Wild. Fantastic movie. Aiming for a review this weekend. Sort of The Fall meets Where the Wild Things Are meets Waterworld if that makes sense.
I’m seeing it tonight. I’ll let you know.
Never heard of that Beasts movie, but I really like all three of those movies you mentioned so I’ll give it a go.
Cool. Interested in a PCN Cosmopolis review?
Btw, changed the site (I know, I do it all the time) but think finally moved to something a bit more professional (i.e. ad friendly) with PCN:
I’ll see how I go. If the film gives me the material for a decent review, I’ll do so.
Nice work on the site. I expect 1 cent for every Dingo Stole My Cinema hit. You can pay me the 3 cents at the end of the tax year.
The best I’ll prob ever be able to do in the forseeable future is free swag. If/when that happens I’ll be sure to send stuff everyone’s way. I’ve got a pile of blu-rays sitting around. The Dark Knight, Malcom X, Planet Earth, Project X, The Matrix, J Edgar, Horrible Bosses, Harold and Kumar, Happy Feet 2. Nothing spectacular at the moment.
Actually your Blade, Kingpin and Breakdown reviews do bring in quite a few hits. I really need to bring back the PCN Summer Flashback series. That was probably the most succesful series I ran, mostly because I wasn’t writing it myself.
Wolf’s Contact review is like the fourth most prolific article on the site since it started.
I’d forgotten about those. Yeah, that was a good series.
Reminds me, I need to do those Abarat Reviews.
And we need INTERVIEW QUESTIONS!
Have you actually watched the film yet?
Going to watch it tonight. Hopefully. Got a very bad review in the Guardian.
I was going to suggest a few questions on the current state of British cinema. Why he thinks the UK is producing so many “gritty, urban misery” style films at the moment. A few questions around that subject could be interesting. Also his views on getting films made and how they’re distributed (ie. shafted when the cinemas are full of Hollywood blockbusters). Might get some mileage out of that.
Also, mention that you’ve been threatened with physical harm by directors/producers before because of your reviews. See how that goes down.
Hi, I promise to be nice, but I’ve got form with people threatening to hurt me.
I was thinking that- mini-renaissance, and whatnot but they all seem to be Urban Misery.
Kermode who I usually like.
Cockshaw gave it 2 out of 5.
The one I saw was Kermode. Even worse.
8! EIGHT! people walked out of Cosmopolis. I almost did. It’s fucking shit. Complete fucking shit.
Why can’t I walk out on movies I am clearly hating? It’s a sickness.
Dunno. Part of me just wants to forget I ever saw it. Also, I’m not sure how much of interest I have to say about it.
I’ll sleep on it.
Saw the trailer to Showguys. Looks dreadful.
Killer Joe looks really good though. Looking forward to that.
Starting it up again in July. Anyone wants to participate is welcome.
oh, and not that anyone cares or expected otherwise, but Ted sucks.
Yeh, I realise I’ve contradicted myself by banging on about the modern lingo – and then I wax lyrical about The Guz!
In my defence, by that point in the film, with The Guz in full swing, I realised Reynolds was just having some fun & I went with it.
Pearce is the very epitome of disdain; it’s entertaining. Did you see his ‘TED’ Prometheus promo? Superb John Hurt impression…
Great review as always wolf. My feelings about this are pretty much exactly what you stated
I haven’t deserted your place; too many sites, too little internet time, the European Football tourny & a vastly under-performing PC – all conspiring against me!
i didn’t think you did my friend!
This film was a lot of fun and took me by surprise. Also, it showed me how underrated of an actor Caviezel really is. Poor guy gets such a bad rap for being Jesus Christ, but the guy actually does have some talent. Good review.
I’ve got to say, I sound like I’m damning it with faint praise in the review but I was okay with the film, particularly once it got out of the dungeons. Wouldn’t watch it again though…
I think Caviezel was miscast here… but then I think everybody was!
Great review wolfie, i sawr this on cable not too long ago and i liked it, and it has The Guz!
I suspect you can not walk out because deep in your core there is some coding that forces you to stay until the bitter end.
It served you well on tattoonie, but sucks when you are watching trash
It’s out of morbid curiosity I guess. Or a subconscious self loathing. Either way, it’s unhealthy.
my god. that bad? Walkouts arent something I usually see a lot of. Interestingly, the last time I saw several was for a movie I really liked, Tree of Life. I dont think that will be the case here though.
Is it ungodly boring, or reprehensible, a bit of both? Im thinking Ill dodge this bullet. Review worthy or not?
Jonah, you site revamp looks nice. Good job.
Thank you, ‘dawg!
It’s a painless 125 mins to sit through.
Cool read. I rather like this. Yes, its pants, but it’s fun pants.
And spot on, on the Guz. That man is time stamped 1980’s onwards (havent googled Carlitos Way). I love that he has a statue of himself on Greendale Campus in Community.
Fun Pants! That’s it – The Guz has got his Fun Pants on!