Touchstone Pictures // 2002 // 131 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 21st, 2011
Prepare for adventure. Count on revenge.
Alexandre Dumas' classic story retold for 8,000th time is actually one of my favorite little gems in the past decade. The Blu-ray is long overdue.
As Naplolen farts around Elba, Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) finds himself used as a pawn in a political power play and ultimately screwed over in a big way by his best friend Mondego (Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential). Forces conspire against him and Dantes is shipped to Chateau D'If, a terrifying prison where release or escape is impossible. There he meets a fellow prisoner who shares a startling secret: he's got a treasure map. All Dantes need do is get out, befriend Luis Guzman, find the lost gold, grow a dope mustache, rent a hot-air balloon, and screw over everyone who had a hand in his imprisonment.
I remember the first time I read The Count of Monte Cristo. It was one of those books with an illustration on every other page. So I was a lazy kid. Big deal. Even though it was diluted for my childish sensibilities, the story is still so cool I got into it. Whatever issues Dumas purists might have with this 2002 adaptation, the heart of the story turns The Count of Monte Cristo into a success. And when you add engaging performances from Caviezel as the calculating badass Count, and Pearce as a legendary douchebag, you're looking at something even better than a success: this Count is a real gem.
The Count of Monte Cristo feels like an old-fashioned movie, an adventure not gussied up with free-flowing CGI and humor that doesn't work. Director Kevin Reynolds doesn't get in the way of the iconic story and keeps the action briskly moving, a potential challenge since the narrative is quite clearly broken up into three separate acts. What could have felt clumsy and episodic instead blends cohesively together, each act (with Dantes as the catalyst) feeding the one that follows with rewarding plot developments and character actions.
In the end, The Count of Monte Cristo might be a simple revenge story -- actually, it's probably the revenge story, save for maybe that bit in Revelation when God tosses Lucifer into a lake of fire -- but the experience is memorable because all the pieces fit together: the acting, the set design, the subtle but effective humor, and even the action. In truth, the only action is the swordfight at the end, but it's so well-shot and there's so much built-up aggression between the two foes, that it's a total humdinger. One of the better on-screen fights, for my money.
I am quite happy this film has found its way to Blu-ray, even more so that the resulting disc is both satisfying and familiar. The 1.85:1, 1080p transfer pushes out the richness of the production with pristine power. Setting aside the bleakness of the prison sequences, everything else is colorful and ornate, especially when Dantes transforms into his more ostentatious persona. The result is a visual treat and the enhanced clarity really pops for the big showdown. The Count of Monte Cristo is short on bombast, but the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio still provides a sharp clean aural mix. Bonus features have been recycled from the DVD: feature commentary from Reynolds, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and six featurettes.
Slick and entertaining, The Count of Monte Cristo still delivers, with welcome turbo-charge in high-definition.
Not Guilty. En garde!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13