Combustible Celluloid
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With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne, Anne Parillaud, Judith Godreche, Edward Atterton, Peter Sarsgaard, Hugh Laurie, David Lowe, Brigitte Boucher
Written by: Randall Wallace, based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas
Directed by: Randall Wallace
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and some sensuality/nudity
Running Time: 132
Date: 03/13/1998

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Heady Mettle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Decades after the heyday of the Three Musketeers, the heroes have parted ways. Athos (John Malkovich) has raised a son, Raoul, to become a musketeer himself; Artemis (Jeremy Irons) is a priest, Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) passes the time womanizing and drinking; and their old pal D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) serves the cruel, selfish young King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio), and is secretly in love with the queen (Anne Parillaud).

The king's fearsome rule has caused his subjects to riot. Artemis reunites the musketeers to carry about a dangerous plan involving the mysterious prisoner, the "man in the iron mask," which, if successful, can save the entire kingdom.

It's great fun to see the aging Musketeers in action, and actors Irons, Depardieu and Malkovich share a wonderful chemistry. Unfortunately, the movie never really focuses on them, and despite the strong charisma of these thespians, they mostly emerge as supporting characters. The main draw of the movie is the hot, young star Leondardo DiCaprio, in his first film after Titanic, and playing dual roles besides.

Unfortunately, the younger audiences going to see him are going to be disappointed by the movie's slow pace. Director Randall Wallace made his directorial debut here after writing Braveheart, and in this and all his other films is a sense of dutiful propriety; he doesn't know how to have fun. The Man in the Iron Mask needed more of a jaunty twinkle, more wolfish grins, less thinking and more doing.

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