Previously best known for penning the words to Mel Gibson's Braveheart, Randall Wallace now sits in the director's chair to deliver a flawed but fun adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas tome, which owes more than a few flourishes to the former film.
It also offers Leonardo DiCaprio playing two parts simultaneously so that anybody needing evidence that his star is in the stratosphere need look no further. Picking up some years after the initial swash and buckle of the Three Musketeers, King Louis XIII is departed, leaving Louis Mk. 14 (DiCaprio) in charge. Given that he is a tyrannical, unprincipled cad of the first order, given to shooting peasants and bonking his way through most of the female population of Paris, especially naive local lass Christine (Judith Godreche), he is none too popular - not least with the four rapidly ageing Musketeers.
With only D'Artagnan (Byrne) still loyal to the king, it's down to Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) and Athos (Malkovich) to restore some order to France. Which they do by rescuing the king's long-lost brother (DiCaprio - surprise!) who has been imprisoned for the past six years, his identity concealed by the titular face case - and training him to take the place of his corrupt sibling. The story, given its grounding and recognisable characters, can't fail, and Wallace, a competent if unremarkable director, provides lashings of pacy swordplay, rousing orchestrals and trimmings - it's hard to remember the last film in which the costumes and sets looked this sumptuous.
And certain images (Godreche trapped by jets of water, DiCaprio walking round himself when the brothers meet) linger long on the memory. Consistently entertaining though it may be, however, Man In The Iron Mask is badly let down by dialogue bordering on the moronic, which punctuates its declarations of forgiveness and humanity with remarks more suited to 20th century America than 18th century France.
But DiCaprio, looking almost illegally handsome despite sporting hair like a girl, acquits himself well alongside his more seasoned co-stars and has immense fun with his dual roles, especially the villainous monarch.