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The trouble with this "re-imagining" (to borrow a phrase from Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes) is that it's never quite sure whether to take itself seriously or not. Alexandre Dumas's original story is a traditionally melodramatic tale of deceit and double-crossing, with clear-cut bad guys and a moral lesson to be learned at the end. Here, director Kevin Reynolds appears unsure about whether to stick with tradition or bring the story up to date and turn it into a post-modern play on the old Victorian values and style. When the Count and his heavy-breathing loved one are reunited, their kiss is actually framed as a cameo. Both lead actors are also prone to heavy bouts of overacting, garnishing their performances with exaggerated baroque gestures.
Clearly this is a film in which the actors could over-indulge themselves and (almost) get away with it, were it not for the fact that--bar Richard Harris as the "Priest"--none of them seem to have the faintest idea about how to conduct themselves in a period drama. This Count of Monte Cristo will leave the audience a little confused as to whether they should cry along with the story or laugh along with the actors. --Nikki Disney
On the DVD: The Count of Monte Cristo on disc offers no escape from the dry drawl of director Kevin Reynolds, who features in almost every element of the extensive extras package. With a shy studio disclaimer before his commentary, he's got a refreshingly frank attitude to explaining a movie's making. Also included are details of the ambitious swordfight choreography, the origins and adaptation of Dumas's classic book and how the sound was developed as well as a behind-the-scenes feature on location. Quite often the footage feels like a tourism promo for Malta. The 5.1 sound mix is superbly utilised (when Reynolds isn't talking) and the transfer (1.85:1) is as pristine as you'd hope and expect. --Paul Tonks