The Mask of Zorro (1998) / Action-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some intense action and violence
Running Time: 136 min.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson
Director: Martin Campbell
Screenplay: John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Review published January 17, 1999
The Mask of Zorro is a throwback to the golden days of action cinema, when the swashbuckler reigned supreme. Tales of sword-fighting bandits, of lavish costumes and sets, high-flying stunt-pieces, and romance galore. This is definitely inspired by the tradition of the original swashbucklers and while it's old fashioned...that makes it all the better.
The film opens up with Hopkins (The Edge, Nixon), playing an aging Zorro, saving three prisoners who are to be assassinated because the Governor Don Rafael Montero (Wilson, The Rock) thinks one of them may be the real Zorro. Of course, the real Zorro saves the day, with the aid of two young brothers. Unfortunately Rafael begins to suspect rightly the identity of the masked avenger is Don Diego de la Vega and later while trying to arrest Diego, kills Diego's wife (a mutual love of Rafael's,) throws Diego in prison, and kidnaps Diego's baby daughter to raise as his own. Twenty years later, one of the two brothers is brutally killed by a U.S. cavalry captain named Harrison Love (Matt Letscher, Lovelife), while the surviving brother, Alejandro (Banderas, Desperado), vows revenge. Diego and Alejandro later meet after Diego escapes from his prison home, and Diego takes Alejandro under his wing and teaches him in the ways of Zorro, swordsman and statesman extraordinaire. Both plan revenge for past misdeeds.
After a rather tepid first half hour, The Mask of Zorro kicks into high gear when the action takes place 20 years later. This film does everything right: breathtaking stunt-work, great character work and acting, beautiful scenery and design, and a romance that is electric. This is enjoyable escapist entertainment which made me yearn for more films run by stunts and less by CGI. Only a slow start and the fact that the film's narrative is predictable keeps this from getting a higher rating. Good stuff.
©1999 Vince Leo