|By Mira Harber
Once upon a time, every schoolchild knew the story of The Count of Monte
Cristo - a story of love, treachery, betrayal, fabulous wealth and revenge.
An old story, but still a ripping good one. This time around the hero Edmund
Dantes (Jim Caviezel) is a good hearted, honest & illiterate (not unusual
at the time) seaman, just promoted to Captain for his good deeds. Newly
promoted and engaged to a beautiful woman, life looks rosy for Edmund.
But no - Edmund’s political naivete combined with a jealous friend end
up with Edmund being falsely accused of political treason and jailed in
a hell-hole of a prison , with what looks like no hope of escape. Edmund
spends years in this unspeakably awful prison - at first cowering mounfully
in the corner of his cell, alone, desolate and despairing...
a fellow prisoner Faria, (Richard Harris as a kind of a French Obi-Wan-Kenobe)
who teaches Edmund everything he will ever need to know to be considered
a gentleman, and a man of learning. Oh, he also leaves Edmund the info
on where a fabulous, legendary fortune is hidden.
Our hero makes a break for it, gets the treasure and begins to plot his
revenge. Boy does he want revenge, and then some! Now, the villain
in this film Fernand Montego is played by the deliciously evil Guy Pearce.
None of that ‘ Robert Redford, soft focus, I’m always a good guy
baloney’ for him - nope - he chews up the scenery as a bad-to-the bone
blackard - he’s stolen everything from Edmund, and he’d do it again, given
half the chance. Guy Pearce has the world’s worst haircut in this
film (all the better to identify himself as the villain I guess).
photography is completely spectacular in Count of Monte Cristo - it’s like
a travelogue for fabulous France and environs, and I must say that old
Edmund cleans up rather nicely when he makes the transition to Count.
My main problem with this film is that although he sure does look nice,
Edmund lacks that indefinable ‘life-force’ or intensity required for a
role like this. He always seems a little too passive and well-fed (even
in prison) to undergo such a huge personality transition. If I had my way,
a really intense kind of guy, an actor like Russell Crowe or a younger
Al Pacino-someone you could totally believe would dive into mega-revenge,
would have been a better choice to play the Count/Edmund. Still, and I’ll
say it again, Edmund cleans up REALLY nicely, so I guess we’ll just have
to live with it.
Comic relief is provided by Luis Guzman - he’s pretty 2002 in his attitudes,
but he is hilarious throughout the film - which is saying a lot in a film
that deals largely with jealousy and revenge.
All in all, I’d call this a Sunday afternoon B movie- schlocky, but basically
still a great story that you’ll be glad you spent the time watching it.