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The Count Of Monte Cristo Review

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Naive sailor Edmond Dantes is betrayed by his best friend, Fernand Mondego, and ends up in an island prison plotting his revenge on those who have wronged him. The fact that his fiancé has now married Fernand makes things even more personal.

★★★★

Like The Three Musketeers and The Man In The Iron Mask, Alexander Dumas' The Count Of Monte Cristo is dug out of the classic novels bin every decade or so, dusted off and remade into a sparkly new swashbuckler.

This time round - following in the footsteps of Robert Donat, Gérard Depardieu and Richard Chamberlain - Jim Caviezel stars as Edmond Dantes, the cute but dim sailor who just wants to captain his own ship and marry the lovely Mercedes.

Unfortunately, his best friend Fernand quite fancies a look under the lady's bonnet himself, so he frames Edmond for a crime he didn't commit. After a few years of floggings, bowls of what looks like Bisto gravy, and solitary confinement on the island prison of Château D'If, a fellow prisoner, Faria, digs his way into Edmond's cell - although he was aiming for the outside. While the pair continue to tunnel, he schools Edmond in everything from philosophy to swordsmanship so that Edmond can then exact revenge on those who betrayed him when he escapes, and reappears in French society as the mysterious Count Of Monte Cristo.

Pacily directed by Kevin Reynolds with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, this isn't quite as flashy or camp as the 1975 Richard Chamberlain-starring version. Nonetheless, it offers some rollicking entertainment, mainly in the form of Luis Guzman's wise-cracking sidekick and Michael Wincott's deliciously sadistic prison warden.

Caviezel, meanwhile, after appearing ill-at-ease and twitchy in Angel Eyes and Frequency, here finally discovers a lead role that suits him - and he clearly has a good time with it.

However, he's nearly acted off screen by Pearce's stomping and poncing performance as the evil Fernand, a fabulous turn that's accentuated by his hilariously bouffant hair. But did they have styling mousse in the 19th century?

Swordfights, revenge, betrayal, torture, love and a classic story add up to two hours of guilty pleasure. On the basis of this fun adventure, Reynolds can finally be forgiven for Waterworld.

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