Review: “The Count of Montecristo”

There’s a good deal to like about the umpteenth adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ tale, but whether its time or the success of the more adventure filled swashbucklers like “The Mask of Zorro”, this Count’s blade is a little on the blunt side.

The result is one of those middle-of-the-range style adaptations, you know the filmmakers have tried their best to be as faithful as they could in spirit to the original. Indeed the production values are superb – costuming, locations, cinematography, etc. are all of a luxurious calibre befitting a very well funded period piece. Yet this version surprisingly lacks fire, energy or intrigue. Its a classic three act tale of betrayal, redemption and revenge yet only from about the halfway mark does the languid pace ever become engaging but by then its too little too late.

Performances are also off-calibre. Caviezel’s opening moments as the somewhat naive Edmond is neither convincing nor even sympathetic. When interacting with the infallible Richard Harris he does become a more enjoyable lead hero in the vein we want, and then sadly progresses on to become an almost Terminator like revenge-fuelled man with a flat monotone that makes Sharon Stone in “The Specialist” look like an award winner. Pearce goes way over the top as the scenery chewing Mondego, Wincott is totally forgettable as a prison guard, and Guizman manages to inject some small sense of humour in proceedings. Finally Dagmara Dominczyk makes a better than average love interest and plays her role with a nice subtlety of strength.

Reynolds knows how to use his locations and its that shifting of locale and the very Mediterranean look of the film which help make things eye catching during some of the quiet spots. Indeed a testament to his skill is how he’s able to turn what is basically a one-room set piece with the prison scenes into a quite watchable coming of age subplot whilst adding some believable action into the mix of what is essentially a purely dramatic piece. Still there’s some rather odd moments, I mean even though its over a decade since he was incarcerated, no-one recognises Edmond as the Count because…shock horror, he’s got a goatee. Other bits just come out of the blue or never fit into the whole whether it be a subplot about a family of Napoleon sympathisers, to a strangely homo-erotic sauna scene that comes out of nowhere.

‘Count’ was always a great bodice-ripping tale filled with rich characters, complex scheming and great use of some basic themes of humanity. Its an extremely hard novel to adapt and whilst the filmmakers should be applauded for giving it a good try and in quite a few ways succeeding, this is more like one of those films which didn’t need to be done in a small scale “Prince of Thieves” version. Its a good video release and welcome tale for fans of the genre, but it could’ve been so much more.