The Bombs: The Musketeer (2001)


I was drunk when I rented this. No, wait, I don't drink. My real excuse is that I was between Netflix movies so, in the mood for a screening, I went to our local video store with the daunting task of finding a DVD my wife wouldn't want to see (she had gone to bed) but that would still entertain me. It wouldn't have been so hard except I've become addicted to the widescreen presentation, and my local shop really only carries new releases on DVD. So, with some trepidation, I rented The Musketeer. It was very, very bad.

But before I get into how bad, there was one good thing to come out of this. I've finally codified how bad a movie has to be to be included in my "Bombs" series. The criteria is simple: if I can't imagine how ANYBODY could like a particular movie, even guiltily, I'll include it.

Since Kevin Thomas (LA Times) and Michael O'Sullivan (Washington Post) liked it, and since Roger Ebert waffled way too much in his negative review, The Musketeer is fair game.

Granted, a movie like this only needs to shuttle us from action scene to action scene, which shouldn't be too hard. But when the transitions are so painful to watch - awful dialog delivered badly -- even that simple purpose breaks down.

And how 'bout those action scenes, arguably the film's only saving grace? The opening fight starts promisingly enough, but quickly makes use of the worst of wire-fu, with our hero impossibly suspended between two rafters fighting off several enemies below who have to deliberately move too slowly to avoid stabbing our hero and ending the movie prematurely (or right on time, depending on your point of view). Then there's the scene where our hero fights off at least a dozen attackers from a moving carriage. Those blows that aren't badly cut obviously don't land with any force, and yet the recipient still goes flying. The climactic battle? Shamelessly ripped straight our of Once Upon a Time in China. Theft or homage? You be the judge.

Peter Hyams acted as his own cinematographer, which doesn't seem to be cause for celebration here. The movie looked like a made-for-TV special shot in widescreen. Some of the set design was fine, but the camera-work was shockingly static far too often.

A note to Hollywood: you've used up all your chances to make a modern musketeers movie. Remaster the early 70s versions, put them out on a special edition DVD, and then back away slowly.

Jim, there's something about movie 'musketeers' that has always puzzled me. Why are they presented as using blades? They should use muskets, surely; or would that make too much sense?

Oh, and thanks for the ALTP (avoid like the plague). definition of Musketeer, WordWizard definition of Musketeer and discussion of "Sword-Wielding Musketeers?", and 2 Straight Dope discussion threads, "Musketeers with no guns?" and "Three Musketeers used swords?"

I especially like the iteration part of the the WordWizard discussion thread...Cannoneers without Cannons, Grenadier Guards without Grenades, Lancers without Lances, Horseless Cavalrymen, Childless Infantrymen, buh-da-bum. :-)

Very educational, thanks! The second "Straight Dope" discussion was particularly informative.

Yes, the explanation that the musket was an unwieldy battlefield weapon while the blade was a gentleman's all-purpose weapon sounds plausible to me. Still, it's curious that the musketeer has become a sort of icon of swordplay.

For my money, Peter Hyams and John Badham are a couple of the biggest hacks working in Hollywood today. They both prove the point that anyone can become a movie director if you really, really want to. All you have to do is put your mind to it, go do it and even if your movies suck just keep doing it.

Just look at the average ratings for Hyams and Badham in the IMDB. Badham has one film that barely has an average rating of 7 and Hyams has zero. For 2 directors who have made 17 and 21 films respectively that's pretty poor. Shouldn't they have at least one breakout film where they really showed their stuff in a career that long?

Hyams has been doing his own cinematography for the last 10 or so films. Why do have the feeling he had to start doing it because no one was willing to work with him?

Hyams is a horrible hack ("alot of alliteration from anxious anchor!"), but Badham has had his moments. I really like Saturday Night Fever (though, honestly, I did *not* expect to), a few of his other films around that time aren't too shabby (such as that aforementioned 7+ rated film, Whose Life Is It Anyway?), and I have enjoyed some of his television work (Jack Bull held my interest, for example).

Of course, his non-televion work has been pretty sad for quite some time now...

Great post! I love it when people come out both-barrels-blazing against crap.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks! Movies like this are much easier to write about than watch. I even get a sort of perverse pleasure from it. Not so much that I'd wish for more frequent additions to this "Bombs" series, but at least it takes the edge off my pain a bit.

I have to concur on the Badham defense. Saturday Night Fever, WarGames and Stakeout were reasonably good movies. Plus I kind of liked Bingo Long's Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.

Hyams I could find nothing worth defending with the possible exception of Capricorn One but that has more to do with the camp quality than any real quality; OJ before the scandal as an astronaut, Kojak and two Mr. Barabara Streisand's, Eliot Gould and James Brolin that is hard to beat.

I agree completely. It appalls me that somebody would trust Hyams with the $40M (I think) it took to make The Musketeer. How much would it cost to remaster and DVD-ify the 70s versions?