The Mask of Zorro (1998) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

The Mask of Zorro comes alive during its well-executed action sequences but is otherwise an overall dull film with low energy and little of the title character’s trademark vigor. This is particularly disappointing considering the casting is spot on perfect in every role. Martin Campbell’s direction is crisp and efficient without calling attention to itself. The film’s biggest and most crippling problem is the uninspired screenplay that sets up a rousing action picture then devolves into a soap opera that revolves around a real estate scheme.

Antonio Banderas stars as the swashbuckler of the title, and he does his forefathers of the genre proud, his athleticism, charm, and dashing sense of mischief are right in line with the characters Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, and Burt Lancaster portrayed in decades past. Anthony Hopkins is Zorro as the film begins but is put out of action early in the picture when his nemesis, the corrupt governor Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), throws him in a dungeon prison and takes Zorro’s infant daughter to raise as his own. Twenty-years later, Alejandro Murrietta (Banderas) is a drunken petty thief who has a blood lust for revenge against Captain Love (Matt Letscher), a high-ranking officer in Montero’s army. So the elder Hopkins trains the younger Banderas to be his replacement as the legendary character. We are told Zorro has never been one man, he turns up when the people need his the most. It’s an interesting concept, but the story as told is a bloated bore with sporadically thrilling stunt-filled scenes of the type of action that is uncommon on-screen these days.

This project originally was envisioned as a low-down gritty remake with indie action film darling Robert Rodriguez slated to direct with Banderas and Salma Hayek in the lead roles. That project was eventually shelved in favor of this more family oriented fare, and while Hayek would have been good in the film it is Catherine Zeta-Jones who steals the film with her perfect features, delicate line deliveries, and captivating eyes. In a movie dominated by explosions, sword-fights, and awe-inspiring stunts it’s the timeless beauty of Zeta-Jones that leaves the most lasting impression.

Director: Martin Campbell
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones

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