Resurfaced: The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

In this series of articles, I’ll be posting reviews that have recently resurfaced. A number of the reviews I wrote in the past I thought had been lost to time, but after coming to a realization that they might still exist on the Wayback Machine, I was able to relocate many of them. I believe there are still some that are lost and they may be lost in perpetuity, but I will periodically search for that data or re-write those reviews that I have never found or which I never wrote to begin with.

For now, this series will be extensive with over 300 regular (400+ words), short (400- words), and quickie (1 to 2 paragraphs) reviews. I will attempt to combine them as best as I can. Reviews written in early 1998 or earlier, no date of creation exists. I will post the original writing date where known, otherwise the date will be listed as “unknown.” These reviews were written between the date of my site’s founding in 1996 through much of 2002. It was only after this period that I settled on the standard format and length of reviews as well as posting each one to its own individual page, which is why the old data was ultimately lost.

All but the review content has been replaced to match my current formatting guidelines, which are a bit more thorough than they might have been in those early days. Please note that I am attempting to retain as much of the original editing integrity as possible, so spelling and/or grammar errors may still be present. This may also mean that some factual data is not there as IMDb was not as ubiquitous as it is now. So, let’s get on to today’s review.

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Rating

Director

Kevin Reynolds

Screenplay

Jay Wolpert (Novel: Alexandre Dumas père)

Length

2h 11m

Starring

Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, James Frain, Dagmara Domi?czyk, Luis Guzmán, Richard Harris, Michael Wincott, Henry Cavill, Albie Woodington, JB Blanc, Alex Norton, Patrick Godfrey, Freddie Jones, Helen McCrory, Christopher Adamson

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

The classic novel of circumstances and revenge, “The Count of Monte Cristo” is revived in a new feature film of the Alexandre Dumas classic.

Jim Caviezel stars as Edmond Dantès, a lowly sailor who proves his worth on a sailing voyage and is promoted to first mate ahead of a crusty sea dog. Dantès’ friend Fernand Mondego is secretly in love with Dantès’ girlfriend Mercédès (Dagmara Dominczyk) and plots with the crusty sea dog to set up Dantès for treason. The incident that led Dantès to the first mate position was a shipwreck that landed him on Elba where he met and carried a secret transmission from exiled dictator Napoleon (Alex Norton).

After spending several years locked away in a hellish prison, Dantès meets up with an old inmate named Abbé Faria (Richard Harris) who helps restore Dantès’ confidence by teaching him how to read, write and speak for himself.

Upon escaping the prison, Dantès goes on a quest as the Count of Monte Cristo to avenge his betrayal and recapture the heart of his destined love. Incident and intrigue follow him throughout the film, allowing for an impressive, if not typical action film.

One of the big problems of adaptation is when directors adapt the same source material on multiple occasions. This outing pits director Kevin Reynolds against a complex script about revenge and its trappings. The script plays well to the moral dilemmas, but Reynolds direction is languid and unimpressive.

The film plays like a high school production of a play based on the book. Much like Jeremy Irons in “Dungeons and Dragons,” Pearce plays way over the top for his uppity, swordsman villain. Luckily Pearce doesn’t explode all over the role like Irons did and keeps himself reserved enough to avoid too much comparison. On the other hand, Caviezel, who came to prominence in Terrence Malick’s war symphony “The Thin Red Line,” manages a difficult part without putting too much venom into his vengeance. He makes the potentially lifeless character more vivid than other actors might.

The acting, overall, is quite paltry. None of the performers, save Caviezel, make their characters anything more than the two-dimensional paper they were written on. Dumas would feel insulted that the characters he breathed life into were no more than charicatures prancing across the screen in a period action film.

The production design gives the film much more power than its performances, acting as a secondary character to the story; however, all of the effects are quite standard to the genre and aren’t overly unique or impressive.

“The Count of Monte Cristo” is a pale attempt at an adaptation that looks and sounds like its source material, but has an undercurrent of imperfection that prevents an audience attracted to such stories from finding any enjoyment in its celluloid pages.

Awards Prospects

Unlikely to figure in any of the prominent Oscar races much like 2001’s “The Musketeer.”

Review Written

April 18, 2002

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