Saturday 16 December 2017

The Three Musketeers * *

(12A, general)

Paul Whitington

By my count there have been at least 20 films directly inspired by Alexandre Dumas' 19th-century adventure novel, and this may just be the worst of them.

Directed by Paul W S Anderson, whose previous works include Alien vs Predator and Resident Evil: Afterlife, The Three Musketeers assembles a decent cast to tell a swashbuckling tale high on incident and low on introspection.

D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is a talented young country swordsman who sets out for Paris in the mid 17th-century to make his name and fortune.

In the French capital, he meets the Three Musketeers, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), the once-legendary band of swashbucklers who have fallen out of the king's favour and on to hard times.

The constantly scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) has expelled them from young King Louis XIII's court in order to tighten his own grip on power.

But when a dastardly plot against the French throne involving the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom) and a ruthless adventuress called Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) is revealed, the Musketeers emerge from retirement with D'Artagnan to intervene.

The Three Musketeers is filmed in a jokey and irreverent style that suggests a winning sense of humour. Entirely erroneously, as it turns out, because the film tries way too hard to be funny while hardly managing to raise a single decent laugh. Its action scenes blend swordsmanship with a martial-arts movie aesthetic, and there's lots of slow-motion flips and high kicks, most of them courtesy of Jovovich (the director's wife), who is as ridiculous here as always.

In fairness, though, she's not on her own, because The Three Musketeers is full of bad and unconvincing performances. Macfadyen, perhaps smelling a rat, looks thoroughly depressed and out of place, Waltz overacts wildly, and the beautiful Gabriella Wilde is positively teak-like as D'Artagnan's love interest.

The whole experience is topped off by lengthy scenes involving ugly Cgi sequences whose horror is enhanced by the latest 3D technology.

In short, Anderson's film is a ghastly, charmless mess bereft of even a moment of genuine wit. Other than that, I loved it.

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