Lacking new ideas, producers have always found inspiration in
the past, plundering classic movies and tv series. But, more often
than not, these contemporary remakes fail to capture the spirit of the
original and largely fall short of expectations. Not so The Mask Of
Zorro, which revives the legendary character first created in 1919 by
crime writer Johnston McCulley.
This lavishly staged big budget adventure also remains
faithful to the spirit and flavour of those Zorro movies of yesteryear
which starred Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power as the masked avenger
who fought against Spanish tyranny in nineteenth century California.
The first major Zorro movie produced in Hollywood for over forty
years, The Mask Of Zorro is an entertaining and crowd pleasing romp.
There are plenty of sword fights and chases throughout this pacy film.
Unlike most modern action films, the violence is low key and
restrained. This updated Zorro also contains enough tongue in cheek
moments and sly humour to keep audiences chuckling throughout.
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas steps into the title role, and
he captures the flamboyant swashbuckling spirit of the film perfectly.
The film begins in 1821. Don Diego (Anthony Hopkins), the
nobleman who fights injustice as Zorro, finds himself arrested by his
nemesis, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson, from Lethal Weapon 3,
etc). The despotic governor of California has been ordered to return
to Spain, and takes a cruel revenge on Zorro for past humiliations.
Don Diego's wife is killed and Don Rafael takes his baby daughter
Elena away to raise as his own. Zorro himself is imprisoned, and the
potential for rebellion is crushed.
Twenty years later, Don Rafael returns with a nefarious scheme
to purchase California from Mexico. Don Diego manages to escape from
prison, but he is too old and tired to continue the fight. He trains
Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas), an incompetent and hot headed thief, to
become his protégé and don the guise of Zorro. Once again the
legendary Zorro rides out to vanquish the enemy and offer the people
Brit Martin Campbell (who also directed Goldeneye, the best
Bond movie in two decades) is perfectly suited to the demands of the
action genre. He maintains a rapid pace throughout, and the numerous
action scenes are superbly handled. The sword duels are terrific
stuff, and staged with gusto.
Hopkins seems to be enjoying himself immensely in this rare
action outing, and he brings a touch of authority to his role as the
older Zorro. He also manages to bring some emotional depth to his
performance that makes his tragic sorrow and personal vendetta
His sword fight trainer, Bob
Anderson, also worked with Erroll Flynn on The Master Of Ballantrae
forty-five years ago.
Banderas is perfectly cast as Zorro, and brings flair and a
swarthy sexuality and physical presence to the role. In her first
major role, Zeta-Jones exudes a raw sexuality as the feisty Elena,
although her performance occasionally smacks of a contemporary
flavour. Zeta-Jones and Banderas establish a wonderful chemistry, and
their scenes together positively smoulder and sparkle.
This modern remake of Zorro is cracking good fun, and
enormously entertaining. One suspects that Fairbanks, Power, and even
tv's famous Zorro Guy Williams, would have approved wholeheartedly!
Copyright © 2000 Greg King