JT Film Review

135 – The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The Mask of Zorro REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Martin Campbell

Cast – Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson

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– followed by The Legend of Zorro

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The character of Zorro has not appeared in a major movie since the 1940’s, but he swings back in form under Martin Campbell’s direction, capably portrayed by Antonio Banderas.

Zorro is a swashbuckling adventurer living in California in the early 1800’s, who “retires” and passes his mantle onto a young thief. Hopkins is the elder, and of course Banderas is the younger. The character is really no different from Robin, The Scarlet Pimpernel, or all those other types. He doesn’t quite rob from the rich and give to the poor, but he protects the commoners against various villanous rich folks and governors. He swings on ropes and chandeliers, he fences admirably and rides horses like he is walking.  Given that, though, making the title “Zorro” one that is passed on from one man to another makes for a neat twist. It also essentially gives us two heroes in the movie, especially because Hopkins doesn’t just stay in the mentor role through the whole movie, but actually takes part in the story.

That this movie is so much fun (in general) comes down to the screenplay and great direction. Martin Campbell just came off of Goldeneye, where he successfully re-invigorated another pop culture icon, and has lost little of that sense of fun adventure. Banderas seems a natural for this type of role, he certainly has charisma and action-man sex appeal to spare, while Catherine Zeta-Jones is an absolute bombshell as Hopkins’ son and Banderas’ future wife. This is ably demonstrated in a scene where the pair duel in a barn, their swords slashing away at each others’ clothes; it ends with a half-dressed Catherine gasping as Zorro grabs his hat from her and dashes off into the sunset. It is frankly one of the sexiest scenes I’ve seen in a while.

The ending involves a big confrontation at a gold mine, used to exploit the locals for the benefit of the wealthy landowners. It goes on a bit too long, but that is one of the few specific complaints I have with the movie. That, and Hopkins sometimes seems to be wishing he was in a different movie. That is odd, because he apparently took the role out of excitement to finally be in an action movie.

The late Bob Anderson was the fight choreographer for the movie, the legendary swordsman whose first gig was on an Errol Flynn picture, The Master of Ballantrae. He went on to work on the Star Wars movies, The Princess Brides, Lord of the Rings, and is widely recognized as the best in the field. He later claimed that Banderas was the most talented actor he ever worked with, and we believe it; the fights in this movie are beautiful, they take you right back to all those Basil Rathbone/Errol Flynn movies of the 30’s and 40’s. That fast and smooth spirit is alive and vibrant in The Mask of Zorro, and a large part of why this was such a treat to watch.

OVERALL

The Mask of Zorro is surprisingly funny, romantic, and adventurous. The stars bring everything needed to the parts, and the assured direction keeps the tone light and fun. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining time at the movies.

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TRAILER 

“The Mask of Zorro” on other websites:

 IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 8, 2012 - Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , , , , , , ,

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