Despite a 30-year record of churning out utter tripe, director Peter Hyams mysteriously, even miraculously, keeps getting work. This is the same Peter Hyams who gave us 1978's hysterically uninteresting Capricorn One, 1981's dauntingly derivative space oater Outland, and 1999's strenuously wretched End of Days. With The Musketeer, Hyams has again stumbled upon a project truly worthy of his time-tested inadequacies.
Like the Alexandre Dumas book upon which it's very loosely based, The Musketeer is set in a 17th-century France in which there are many troubles. Spain, France, and England are at one another's throats for reasons a trip to the library will aid in understanding, as the film doesn't think you have the attention span to cope with all that stuff.
A hired gun named Febre (Tim Roth), in the employ of the Catholic Church, kills a boy's father. The child grows up to be D'Artagnan (monotone Velveeta hunk Justin Chambers), who for unexplained reasons can sword fight in a gravity-defying manner not seen on Earth until 20th-century Hong Kong action films. Our hero meets up with some guys who look like a Renaissance-fair version of a particularly unhygienic Allman Brothers tribute band. These are Musketeers. What is it that's so neat about being a Musketeer? The film thinks it's none of your business and remains pretty much mum on the topic.
Anyway, they do the "all for one, one for all" routine, run around France for obscure reasons, and then we realize that there is, alas, no God. For were there a just God, He would not allow Catherine Deneuve to appear in this . . . this thing. But there she is, the ice-queen icon of the '60s, the star of Belle de Jour and Repulsion, for chrissakes, playing the Queen of France like a bored housewife gone seedy. Also grating is American Beauty's Mena Suvari, appearing as D'Artagnan's cow-eyed love interest, Francesca.
As the ads imply, The Musketeer features much kung-fu- fighting scenes--with action "choreography" by Xin Xin Xiong (Double Team)--all of which are ineptly shot in an underlit manner suggestive of random scuffles at the Ottobar after a power failure. The non-kung fu scenes possess all the joy of root-canal surgery, except they seem to take longer. There is on-screen evidence that a sequel is planned, but surely this is merely an idle threat.