The Mask of Zorro (1998)

No one has seen his face... but everyone ... knows this mark.

It has been twenty years since Don Diego de la Vega fought Spanish oppression in Alta California as the legendary romantic hero, Zorro. Having escaped from prison he transforms troubled bandit Alejandro into his successor, in order to foil the plans of the tyrannical Don Rafael Montero who robbed him of his freedom, his wife and his precious daughter.

High definition a necessity for this delightful homage to swashbucklers.
Zorro senior tutors Zorro junior in the way of the blade, their combined goal? To enact revenge on Don Rafael Montero and Capt. Harrison Love respectively.
Martin Campbell was an interesting and wise choice for this latest take on the swashbuckling heroics of the Latin Robin Hood. Campbell was the man in the director's chair for both of James Bond's reinvigoration's, firstly with "Golden Eye" in 1995, and then with "Casino Royale" in 2006. For here it's evident that The Mask Of Zorro has no delusions of grandeur in the pantheon of cinema, it wants (and is) to be an action film with pure fantastical flamboyance pouring from practically every frame. It honours the swashers of old by ensuring all genre boxes are ticked, yep, we got swords a plenty, yep, we got a dashing hero (x 2 actually), yep, we got a spiffing looking villain, and yes we got a heaving bosom led romance into the mix as well. While Campbell and his team of screenwriters gleefully ensure that humour is a very prominent thing, thus keeping the fantasy in the comic book realm from which Zorro's essence comes.
The stunt work on show is top draw, none more so than during a horse chase sequence where this Zorro tips its hat to former glorious genre pieces (well done Tony Angelotti). Other notable technical aspects deserve a mention, the costumes from Graciela Mazón are desirable and now in this age of High Definition Cinema, good make up work really comes to the fore, so it be that that department did sterling work on this picture (check out Elena's gorgeous face). The cast are basically very strong, Antonio Banderas slips into the Zorro cape with charming ease, and though it's nice to see a Spanish actor playing the famous Spanish character, here in this adaptation the irony is that Zorro is Mexican! Anthony Hopkins is as elegant as ever as the elder, newly retired Zorro AKA: Don Diego de la Vega, and Catherine Zeta Jones is positively ravishing as Elena, while Stuart Wilson does a nice line in pompous villainy as Don Rafael Montero.
Some minor complaints do dwell within the picture. Campbell has a lot to fit into a running time of two hours and twenty odd minutes, and this makes the wait for the rip roaring finale longer than one at first wished for. Though for sure let it be noted that the gold mine action bonanza at pics end is totally worth the wait. Weak in the cast is Matt Letscher as Captain Love, oddly looking like some Kiefer Sutherland tribute act, he lacks any real menace for what is a pretty well written role. James Horner's score lacks the necessary boom boom bang bang that someone like Alfred Newman would have provided, and a comedy horse strand pushes the boundaries of acceptable genre homages a little too far.
But really why moan and groan at irks that don't alter the trajectory of The Mask Of Zorro's blade? It isn't trying to do anything other than whisk you along for a blade swashing ride, and that is something that it most assuredly succeeds in doing. 8/10

TriStar Pictures, Amblin Entertainment by Martin Campbell, Johnston McCulley, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Randall Jahnson, John Eskow.
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, José María de Tavira.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Thriller, Western

Keywords: california spy hero horseback riding latinx lead sword fight revenge

07/17/1998

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