There's a mother lode of revenge to get straight - not only the sorrow of Hopkins' Zorro Senior, but Banderas' Zorro Junior is intent on catching up with evil henchman Colonel Love (Matthew Letscher) for lopping off his brother's head. This, combined with dastardly plots, daughtes to reclaim and smouldering beauties to win over drives the movie towards its climax.
Playing to the flamboyant tune of a topmark Bond movie, albeit set in a late 19th century Mexican held California, Martin Campbell's spirited rendition of the Latino Robin Hood is a splendidly straightforward adventure movie - dedicated to delivering the richest in action, humour and hot-blooded romance, while being well aware that in a comic book world of dashing heroics, silliness is a privilege not a complaint. And no manner of undiluted Welsh accents, achingly old-hat slapstick routines (come in comedy horse, your time is up) and vastly implausible swordplay can nullify the enjoyment levels of this treasurable nonsense.
Impeccably cast, Banderas is one of the few gorgeous leading men willing to temper their straight-up heroic stuff with a twinkle of self-deprecation, pulling off as many laughs as gasps at his flashing blade. He is the new Zorro, tutored to duelling perfection and gentlemanliness by Hopkins' old Zorro - recently absconded from his 20-year imprisonment by his long-standing nemesis Don Rafael (Wilson). That swine also kidnapped his baby daughter to bring her up as his own. And she, naturally enough, has grown up to be ravishing beauty Elena (played with spicy vigour by a ravishing Zeta-Jones) getting all hot round the heaving bosom for this new masked hero romping around the luxurious Californian villas to bedevil the wicked plans of the sneering Rafael and his coterie of greedy Dons.
There's a mother lode of revenge to get straight - not only the sorrow of Hopkins' Zorro Senior, but Banderas' Zorro Junior is intent on catching up with evil henchman Colonel Love (Matthew Letscher) for lopping off his brother's head. There's also a dastardly Rafael plot to buy California from the Mexican overlords with their own gold which needs to be scuppered - the drama crescendos to an Indiana Jones styled gold mine peopled with reams of innocent children. Plus a daughter to reclaim and a purring beauty to be won over be it by delectable tango, illicit confession or smouldering glance.
Essentially, though, Zorro concerns itself with fabulous sword-fighting (and slashing big "Zs" in the woodwork), rip-roarious stunts (including a spectacularly OTT horse chase that errs more on the level of horseplay) and a sparkling interplay between the leads (who all seem to be having a whale of a time). Banderas and Hopkins gel nonchalantly, igniting humour and passion off the master-pupil rote; Hopkins with Zeta-Jones adds a poignant note to the boysiness of it all; but it is the Banderas/Zeta-Jones inveiglement that really sizzles - in the film's raunchiest sequence they mock-duel with flirtatious glee, stealing kisses and removing clothing with well-placed swishes of the rapier. And with the sun glistening over tumbleweed deserts and appropriately-bedecked cantinas and ranchos, director Campbell (who instilled such gusto into GoldenEye) invests it all with a fine sense of the theatrical and keen storytelling skill, sweeping events without fuss from one great set piece to the next.
Inevitably, none of this has any pretensions to profundity and its upfront style adds nothing to the textbook of filmmaking technique excepting perhaps the matchless stuntwork. Campbell also has a tough time cramming all the complicated ins and outs of the plot into a sensible running time - when the grandstand, all-action finale finally arrives it seems long overdue. The Mask Of Zorro, however, is attempting nothing greater than the purest escapism that will play right across the board, tongue tickling lightly in its cheek, eyes glinting with a jovial sparkle. Its sheer good nature is infectious.
The Mask Of Zorro is attempting nothing greater than the purest escapism that will play right across the board, tongue tickling lightly in its cheek, eyes glinting with a jovial sparkle. Its sheer good nature is infectious.