movie film review | chris tookey

Mask Of Zorro

© 1998 - TriStar Pictures, Inc. - all rights reserved
  Mask Of Zorro Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.17 /10
Alejandro/Zorro ........ Antonio Banderas , Don Diego/Zorro ........ Anthony Hopkins , Elena Montero .......... Catherine Zeta-Jones
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Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: John Eskow, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Released: 1998
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 136

A middle-aged Hispanic freedom fighter, Don Diego (Anthony Hopkins), disguised behind a mask and the name of Zorro, fights, performs gymnastics and stunt-rides to the rescue of oppressed peasants in 1820s California. He is tracked to his lair by the evil governor of California (played by another Brit, Stuart Wilson plus demonic moustache) whose soldiers slaughter Zorroís much-loved wife. While Zorro vegetates behind bars and concentrates on growing a fine chin of hair, the governor adopts his baby daughter. Twenty years later, Don Diego makes a daring escape, and is understandably impressed to discover that his baby has turned into Catherine Zeta-Jones. No longer capable of performing the acrobatics of yesteryear, he takes under his whip a handsome, hot-headed bandit (Antonio Banderas) and becomes Obi Wan-Kenobi to his Luke Skywalker, instructing him in the finer points of swordplay, self-discipline and eating with the correct spoon. Whereupon, to no one in the audienceís astonishment, Banderas becomes Zorro Mark 2, infiltrating the evil governorís entourage like a Hispanic Scarlet Pimpernel.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Will Zorro Senior win back his daughter? Will Zorro Junior fall madly, romantically and photogenically in love with the spirited, sword-brandishing daughter of Zorro Senior? Will all three thwart the evil governor, still hellbent on oppressing the peasants like mad?

If you seriously doubt the answers to the above, you havenít seen any swashbucklers from the golden age of Hollywood; so you may as well start by seeing this one.

The Mask of Zorro is a reminder of those carefree days when Douglas Fairbanks Sr swung happily from chandeliers, and Errol Flynn romanced Olivia De Havilland while keeping one arm free to conduct a swordfight with Basil Rathbone.

Itís a swashbuckler - and there hasnít been one this glorious, glossy or goofy, since Burt Lancasterís The Crimson Pirate, back in 1952. The Mask of Zorro wonít win marks for originality, and outstays its welcome by about half an hour. The longish scenes between action sequences mean that it will tax the patience of children below the age of ten.

But those acting scenes are, in fact, rather better than they tended to be in the old days. Hopkins and Wilson make splendidly wily adversaries, and director Martin Campbell is to be commended for controlling Hopkinsís tendency to overact.

The action sequences - including a bravura display of acrobatics on horseback by Banderasís stunt-double - are breathtaking.

There is also a code of honour and social responsibility that has been lacking from most recent action movies. This is a film with many old-fashioned virtues.

The scenes between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, two of the best-looking people in movies, have a sexual charge rarely seen since the heyday of Flynn and De Havilland. Just as refreshingly, their passion is conveyed not through sweaty bedroom scenes, but through dance and swordfights.

It is too early to be sure if the Welsh Miss Zeta-Jones will turn out to be a new Rita Hayworth, or merely the new Jane Seymour; but she is gorgeous, and it is easy to see why American critics hailed her as a star.

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