It's kind of strange, my wife and I just recently rented Rob Roy. I remember hearing that it was quite good when it was released in the 90's. And although I can't say it was a bad film, I can't really say it was all that satisfying. It had it's moments but it is not one that will linger with any real distinction in my mind. Usually films in that time frame intrigue me and it was a little disappointing to see such an average film with a pretty good cast. On the other end of the rainbow, you have this film. Now even though this is not exactly the same time frame, it is that "type of film". You know, old England, old France, old whatever. It is pre-1900's. I put all kinds of films into this category. Anything from Braveheart to Man In The Iron Mask to Quills all falls neatly into this type of category. Just like you would say anything from Nosferatu to Nightmare On Elm Street is horror, anything pre-1900 is in this "type of film" category.
The Count of Monte Cristo is in one word, AMAZING. There are two reasons I wanted to see this film. One is the trailer had me completely intrigued and the second is because I really enjoyed the book and the film version of "Sleepers". That was the Robert Deniro, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman and Barry Levinson film where several youths are sent to a boys prison for an innocent enough mistake that cost someone their life. In the film the boys are tormented by Kevin Bacon and his entourage of prison guards and one of the things that keeps them going is the book, The Count of Monte Cristo. When one of the boys is first given the book, he looks at the authors name and says, " by Alexander Dumb Ass?" and his friend replies, "that's Doomaa, read it, it's about a guy that escapes from prison and takes revenge on the ones that hurt him." That is not the line verbatim, but you get the point. Ever since seeing this film I have wanted to read the book. Never getting the opportunity to do so, when the film was advertised, I was, needless to say, excited.
The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate tale of revenge. It is a story that has stood the test of time because it is probably everyone's fantasy to right the unjust wrongs that have been comitted against them. And oh what fun it is to imagine yourself finding a buried treasure and then making yourself a king or a count? To have everything usurped from you only to take it all back twenty fold is not only intriguing, it is absolutely diabolical and gives you a sense of power. Perhaps that is why the story transcends generations and time frames. Because it is a story and a concept that we can all relate to, perhaps not out of experience but because we have all dreamed about it. A simple man makes a decent living, is thrown into prison for a crime he didn't commit and then escapes and finds some hidden treasure and becomes the richest man in the world and extracts revenge. How can that not sound intriguing?
This present version of Monte Cristo is masterfully made. Kevin Reynolds, of Waterworld and Robin Hood fame, was given the director's chair and he doesn't disappoint. There is enough action in here for all of us looking the for next great swashbuckling adventure and there is also a trace of romance and even some humour.
Jim Caviezel plays Edmund Dantes and Guy Pearce plays Fernand Mondego. Together, these two shine. I wasn't a big fan of Caviezel's work thus far. I thought he was alright in Thin Red Line and Angel Eyes but his work in Pay It Forward as the homeless junkie really turned me off of him. In Frequency he was quite good but that was the only film I could really recommend him in. But I think that has all changed now that he has made this film. He is perfect as the average peasant that works to achieve his goals and eventually as the man who has learned from the fountain of knowledge and takes his revenge. Guy Peace, on the other hand is not even recognizable in his role as the insanely jealous best friend. When you look at his last film, Memento and then see him here, you won't even realize this is the same actor. He comes across as a jealous, scheming, whining son of a wealthy man that has been given everything to him on a silver platter. One of the best lines in the film describing his acerbic disposition in life is when Mercedes ( the love interest in the film ) tells Fernando that when he was a little boy, he was upset when he got a pony and Edmund got a whistle because that whistle made Edmund happier that when Fernando had his pony. He is perpetually unhappy and I'm not really sure what could give him any sort of concord. He reminds me a little of the Tombstone character Johnny Ringo. Doc Holliday once described him a man who wanted revenge for being born. Perhaps Ringo and Fernand are distant cousins.
A sure sign that you are enjoying a film is when you laugh at what is not even funny. You are enjoying yourself to the point that you are anticipating with such joy at what is about to happen. You know that sometime in the film Edmund is going to escape the prison that he is in and that he is going to find Richard Harris' treasure and extract revenge on the monsters that put him in prison. But all the while you can't keep that goofy grin on your face. There wasn't one moment in this film when I wasn't having a great time. And that is not easy to do. I think at times it is simple to become a cynic when you see as many movies as we all do. I perhaps see a little more than the next person, so when so many films begin to tread down that familiar path that it usually does, the perpetual groans become standard occurences. But this film kept me laughing, entertained and anxious to see the outcome. I love this film. This is on par with some of the greats like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, Predator, Lethal Weapon and a few others that never stops the action. There is nothing to dislike about it and there is every reason to recommend it.
2001 was one of the weaker years that I can recall for the film industry. There were very few pictures that I really honestly enjoyed. There were so many films that will take the infamous ephemeral dive. Five years from now, ask anyone what the best picture of 2001 was and not many people will recall with reverance what films came out in 2001. But here we are in the second month of 2002 and I have already seen two films that blew me away. Mothman Prophecies and The Count of Monte Cristo are two films that I am proud to recommend to many of my friends. I am sure I have made Mothman an extra couple thousand dollars because of my recommending it. I hope I can do the same for The Count. These are two films that people should not miss. But seeing as this is a review for The Count, let's just end it by saying, I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!
9.5 out of 10 Just see this movie.