The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Rating: C-

Dir: Randall Wallace
Star: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne

The Four Musketeers come more or less out of retirement, in order to rescue France from bad King Louis XIV, by liberating the titular prisoner. He turns out to be the unacknowledged twin of the king, just a kinder, gentler version – and bearing remarkably few grudges, given what’s happened to him. I did enjoy the four veterans (Irons, Malkovich, Byrne and Gerald Depardieu, all of whom fit their roles nicely. They have their own characters – priest, rake, doting father and ardent royalist – avoiding the tendencies in certain adaptations for Aramis, Porthos, D’Artagnan and…the other one, to blur together, and they’ve picked the best actors for those roles. No: though the middle ages portrayed here are a little too clean-cut (they had remarkably good dental care, it seems) the main problem can be summed up in two words: Leonardo DiCaprio.

Never been impressed by him, and we get a double-dose, as monarch and twin, which doubles the irritation factor. Neither performance is in the slightest bit convincing, and the film reaches its nadir when he’s in bed with a girl…and you can’t tell which one is the chick. Mind you, his mother is Anne Parillaud, who is barely a decade older than him, and plays the role of Queen as if she’d been plucked from Let’s just say that this side of the story wobbles between unconvincing and laughable. Basically, the film works only when DiCaprio, in either incarnation, is simply not involved. Unfortunately, the more things develop, the less frequent are such respites, and the film eventually devolves into running and sword-fighting, with the potentially interesting aspects all but forgotten.