The Count of Crap. It was only about ten minutes into this movie that I started to feel like Malcolm MacDowell in A Clockwork Orange—you know, when his eyelids are pinned open and he’s forced to watch a series of disturbing scenes as a kind of electro-shock therapy? The primary difference was that instead of watching scenes of sexual violence and horror, I was subjected to an abundance of artificial Hollywood aesthetics: fake and pretty sets, musical effects and filmic overstatement.

The plot and pretty pictures in Disney’s degrading adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo are the only things tenuously holding this trash-heap together. It does not require a viewing of the whole movie to realize director Kevin Reynolds has made no progress from his last lengthy zero-star adventure, Waterworld. Dumas would be laughing ironically if he were alive to witness this show of Hollywood fluff. The movie follows a could-be-interesting structure, with tropes that echo The Princess Bride, but a cast whose chemistry clashes and whose dramatic charisma fails to transcend the superficial level. Jim Caviezel plays Edmund Dantes—the Count. Caviezel brings a handsome face to the role, but his performance is boring, weak and too damn predictable. Dantes lacks depth and mystery, traits that are important to the classic figure of the cunning, metamorphosed, revenge-seeking Count. His plight is one-dimensional, and Reynolds has Caviezel pour it onto the screen by the gallon. Dantes’ relationship with lover Mercedes, played by new Hollywood glow-princess Dagmara Dominczyk, lacks development and charm. Facial expressions become redundant early on. Those of Guy Pearce are especially annoying. At the beginning, he pounds the deceptiveness and untrustworthiness of his character (Fernand Mondego) into the camera to the point where you want to pound back.

Mondego is a sad loss for Pearce, who delivered like a champ in L.A. Confidential and Memento. Similarly, the facial expressions of Luiz Guzman, the pirate who vows subservience to Dantes after Dantes decides not to kill him, are solicitous of comic relief and not funny at the same time, a rather weak combination if you ask me. Oh, and another thing—the sword fights do not save this movie.

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