After cranking out several historical horror films such as Ripper Untold and Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing writer/director Steve Lawson turns his attention to historical adventure novels with his adaptation of Dumas’ The Fourth Musketeer. While he had mixed results with the genre films, doing this kind of swashbuckler on a budget is a whole different matter.
An aged d’Artagnan (Jonathan Hansler, Vampire Virus, The Devil’s Machine) is interrupted while working on his memoirs by Philippe (Nathan McGowran) a young man who hopes to make his name by defeating him in a duel. He tells the young man to listen to his story and then decide if he still wants to fight him.
Going back to 1625 in Gastony we see a much younger d’Artagnan (Matt Ingram-Jones) and his father (Chris Lines, The Slayers, Are We Dead Yet) discussing the lad’s plans for the future, or lack thereof. He’s sent to Paris to see his father’s old friend Treville (Melvyn Rawlinson, The Jack in the Box: Awakening, The Devil Outside) who is the Captain of The Musketeers.
Much like Lawson’s period horror films, The Fourth Musketeer is a low-budget affair shot mostly on interior sets. The film’s first major action scenes aren’t even shown, we hear them talked about while what look like illustrations from a manuscript scroll across the screen. That’s not what I’d call exciting and not what people watch an adventure film for. It also doesn’t help that The Fourth Musketeer keeps interrupting the main story to come back to d’Artagnan and Philippe discussing what we just saw. It’s not only redundant, but it’s also very obvious padding in a film that has way too much extra dialogue even without those interludes.
Not that the main plot is anything special. Our hero no sooner gets to Paris than he’s taken advantage of and robbed of his money and letter of introduction. As a result, he has to rely on his wits to find a way to prove himself to Treville and his men, Porthos (Richard Ingle), Aramis (Morgan Rees-Davies, Viking Legacy, The Victorians) and Athos (Ade Dimberline, White Sky, A Dark Path).
Maybe if the film had enough of a budget to stage some swordfights or even a few fistfights it might have had a chance. But The Fourth Musketeer is almost all talk which utterly defeats the purpose of filming it in the first place. But maybe I should have expected it from someone who made the WWII action film Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island with a cast of seven, a crocodile puppet, and no actual battle scenes.
When Lawson finally gives the audience what they want and lets the actors go at it the film is two-thirds over and it’s a horribly choreographed, slow-motion brawl that lacks any excitement. d’Artagnan doesn’t even have a sword, he stands by and throws rotten produce at Cardinal Richelieu’s men. Speaking of Richelieu, he never makes an appearance in The Fourth Musketeer and his operatives Rochefort (Sean Cronin, Kill Kane, Dawning of the Dead) and Milady (Mollie Hindle, A Kidnap) are more incompetent than intimidating.
Is there anything about the film I found amusing? An early scene where d’Artagnan is practicing his swordsmanship while delivering a variation on De Niro’s “Are you talking to me?” monologue from Taxi Driver is about as good as The Fourth Musketeer ever gets. Lawson’s next film as another period adventure The Highwayman, hopefully, he’ll actually put some adventure into it.
The Fourth Musketeer is available on DVD and Digital in the UK from High Fliers Films. You can check their Facebook page for more information and announcements of releases elsewhere.