The Count of Monte Cristo

Directed by Kevin Reynolds. USA. 2002.

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The Count of Monte Cristo. All Rights Reserved.Oh, how excited I was!!! A swashbuckling adventure with two of my favourites!!! Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, and one of the most exciting books ever written, how could it possibly miss?!!! I walked into the theatre,  bought my ticket, and took my place in the audience chock full of anticipation for the thrills that were surely awaiting me over the next two and a quarter hours. As the movie went on, Iím frankly surprised that more notice wasnít taken of what I am sure was an audible hissing sound coming from my corner of the theatre as all the wind went out of my sails.

The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of Edmond Dontes, who is, at the most promising point in his life, falsely accused of treason and imprisoned. What follows, (in Alexander Dumasí book at least) is an incredible tale of escape, treasure hunts, duels to the death, even a little romance. Sounds good right? 

Wrong. Maybe screenwriter Jay Wolpert should make a New Yearís resolution to at least flip through the material heís adapting before putting his pen to paper. His script (or lack thereof) is one of the two reasons why The Count of Monte Cristo comes up short of itís Errol Flynn adaptations. If you thought the other was the acting, youíre completely wrong. The two leads in this film are beyond reproach.

The Count of Monte Cristo. All Rights Reserved.Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, and Memento) stars as Ferdinand Mondago, Edmond Dontesí best friend and arch rival. Dumasí Mondago is cold, calculating and manipulative. Wolpertís creation has him as a lucky whiner, who has achieved his station in life merely by bothering the right people until they gave him what he wanted just to make him go away. This part under uses Pearceís talents to woeful proportions. In the hands of a lesser actor Mondagoís time on screen would have been unwatchable. All Pearceís talents can do is bring him up to the level of irritating.

The truly depressing thing about this film was watching a great actor like Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Angel Eyes) struggle to pull the script up to his level. As Edmond Dontes heís given nothing to do but be a wide eyed innocent, but Wolpertís script makes him so to the point of stupidity. As the Count heís malicious and evil, with absolutely no transformation time between characters. This makes both incarnations seem awkward, Dontes seem moronic, and the Count evil to the level of a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Still wondering what that other factor is? That honour gets bestowed squarely on the shoulders of director Kevin Reynolds. After watching his first film (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) and now this opus I have reached an inescapable conclusion; itís not all Kevin Costnerís fault that his first bash in the directorial arena made a HUGE crash landing. Heís got about as much chance of ever winning any recognition for his directing as an ant does for survival at an aardvark convention.

The Count of Monte Cristo falls flat in every department which is so surprising considering the amazing source material, and the incredible acting talent involved. Itís easily the most disappointing film so far this year.

Jen Johnston
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