If Douglas Fairbanks had lived to see The Mask of Zorro, he would’ve enjoyed it a lot. If John Wayne had lived to see Armageddon, he would’ve been horrified, but I have a feeling that if Errol Flynn saw the updated film version of “The Count of Monte Cristo” he’d have a great time watching it. This is a rousing adventure, ripped out of the pages of the great Classics Illustrated comic books.
It’s a great tale of revenge. The hero (James Caviezel) is cruelly betrayed by his best friend, is trapped in an island prison for years, absorbed by thoughts of revenge against the man who stole his woman. The lost woman he can almost deal with; it’s the lost time that eats him the most.
The plot of “The Count of Monte Cristo” doesn’t much matter I don’t think. We can predict all of the events that happen in the film with remarkable accuracy, even if we don’t remember the whole story from when we were young. Movies like this live or die on their cool sword fights, attractive scenery, and the chemistry between the two leads. Throw in the icy sweetheart for the purpose of fantasy, and to give the characters the impetus to want to kill each other over her, and you have a good piece of entertainment.
Both Caviezel and Pearce are terrific in the film. Pearce, as the villainous Fernand, demonstrates that he could’ve been a more than passable star back in the 20’s and 30’s with his surly mouth and weird facial ticks. When he steals Caviezel’s sweetheart (Dagmara Dominczyk), he projects real evil and lust, and by the time Caviezel escapes prison, we can’t wait for him to return and kill the bastard. Caviezel for his part, wouldn’t have been a big star back in the old days, probably because he doesn’t fit any stereotypes as an actor. Look at the parts he’s played, from Angel Eyes to “Frequency”. Caviezel’s a hypnotic and strange actor who can’t be pigeonholed in one type. Pearce, equally as talented, might become a modern day Anthony Perkins, typecasting and all. He can be that creepy.
Basically, a movie like “The Count of Monte Cristo” is remembered only for its good parts. I didn’t much care for Caviezel’s relationship in prison with mentor Richard Harris, or any of the drama which spans decades in the film. The best parts of the film are the sword fights, brilliantly edited from various angles, including a great battle on a grass field. “The Count of Monte Cristo” is not as good of a film as say “Captain Blood” probably because well, Errol Flynn was the master of these kinds of movies, but it’s old school in another way. We like the actors, we like the action, and by definition, the movie works. The rest doesn’t matter.