Appellate Judge James A. Stewart thinks Montreal makes a better New York than New York.
"So how was typhoid?"
With a verbal volley like the one above kicking off the action in The Last Templar, you can tell this one doesn't take itself quite as seriously. The four-hour miniseries, based on Raymond Khoury's novel, which I (like a lot of people) missed last year is now on DVD. Only one of the Knights Templar may remain, but there are still plenty of earthshaking revelations left after The Da Vinci Code to fill movies, miniseries, and novels for years to come.
Facts of the Case
Professor Tess (Mira Sorvino, The Replacement Killers) is looking over priceless artifacts and comparing notes on diseases with her friend Clive (Anthony Lemke, Queen of Swords) at a museum gala, when four helmeted horsemen burst in to grab valuables that include a Templar decoder and the Cross of Constantine, which was found by Tess' father. Naturally, she grabs a crozier and starts after the Templar troublemakers, grabbing a police horse for a chase and capturing one of the men. It wasn't as easy as it sounds; she ruined a pair of Manolos in the process.
Not only does she have the attention of the bad guys, she also has the attention of FBI Agent Sean Daley (Scott Foley, The Unit), a devout Catholic who's bound to clash with the skeptical Tess. Tess' investigation uncovers a race for a Templar treasure, sending her and Sean on a dangerous mission in Turkey. Will her lucky boots survive?
The Last Templar kicks off nicely. That museum robbery and ensuing chase are as effective a hook as Tess' crozier. From there, though, it moves into predictable territory. Tess decides to investigate, disguising herself as a doctor to question a suspect in the hospital. The suspect is subsequently murdered. Tess and Daley argue. She goes off into the desert in search of treasure. Daley tags along. And so it goes. There's nothing new here, but a general tongue-in-cheek attitude and a brisk pace make it work, for the most part.
Mira Sorvino may not look tough, but she makes a decent action heroine. In the making-of featurette, she points out she did her own fights, and handles them well. Scott Foley has decent comic timing. Anthony Lemke sounds suitably adventurous when talking about archaeology and suitably clueless when sitting Tess' daughter. Also notable are Victor Garber (Alias) as a monsignor who gets involved in the mystery and Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia) lending a hand late in the story.
Tess' moral awakening in the last act, which has an impact on the outcome, must have been more gripping in the novel, where the lightweight tone throughout wouldn't have been so obvious. There's also a deus ex machina involving a very big tidal wave that's all wet.
The picture is splendid, both in the first half as Tess and Sean chase around New York (played by Montreal) and in the second half when a shift to Turkey widens the visual horizons. Flashbacks to the Templars are intentionally overlit and grainy. Sound quality is decent; no dialogue gets lost.
A making-of featurette seems puffy, but does show stunt work and CGI effects. There's a movie-style trailer. There's also a gallery of stills and storyboards. The storyboards are at the end, and since three or four could share a page, they're much too small to peruse, even on a reasonably big TV screen.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The plot leaves a lot of questions. The one looming foremost in my mind: Why was Tess planning to head into the desert alone, knowing that anyone who has gotten close to the secret of the Templars has gotten bumped off? Why didn't she gather a trusted archaeological team?
The Last Templar isn't bad, but it is a formula adventure. It moves along at a nice pace and Mira Sorvino's turn as an action heroine is likable. Yeah, it's derivative of The Da Vinci Code and kind of silly, but as a diversion it does the trick. However, I'm sure there'll be a long list of titles ahead of this one in your Netflix queue.
Not guilty, but you won't be grabbing a police horse to chase down a copy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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