By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Trying to reunite lovers.
Philipe (Matthew Broderick) is a thief who manages to escape the confines of the dungeon in Aquila by squeezing through a prison drain and then swimming through the underground sewer. When he finally reaches safety he meets up with Navarre (Rutger Hauer) who is also on the run and straddle with a very strange curse placed on him by the Bishop (John Wood). It seems that the Bishop had a thing for Lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) and became enraged when he found that she loved Navarre and not him. As part of his revenge he made it so Navarre and Isabeau will never be able to meet in human form by having Navarre turn into a werewolf by night while Isabeau becomes a hawk by day. Now Navarre wants to use the reluctant Philipe’s knowledge of the city to help him find the Bishop and kill him, which he hopes will then end the curse.
I have to admit that medieval fantasy is my least favorite of all movie genres. The archaic living conditions always comes off as gloomy and depressing and the fact that the action is limited to only swordplay seems to make it less exciting. However, the film has some impressive cinematography and Broderick’s humorous character kept me engaged most of the way.
I also liked the pounding Philharmonic musical score. I realize that it doesn’t fit the sound of the 13th century setting and some fans of the film hate it for just that reason, but it still gives the film distinctiveness and helps boost the energy. I was actually disappointed it wasn’t used more as it seems to taper off too much after booming out strong at the beginning.
I am so used to seeing Hauer playing dark characters that I was initially thrown having him play a good guy, but pleasantly surprised at how well he did it. Leo McKern is a standout as the elderly Imperius. His castle residence is marvelously captured and I loved all the booby traps he has in store for the invading soldiers. Pfeiffer on the other hand is a bit miscast mainly due to her model-like face that seems too glossy for the time period.
The exciting jousting sequence that takes place during the finale between Hauer and actor Alfred Molina’s character is outstanding, but it takes too damn long to get there. The simple plot could have been wrapped up in a much briefer runtime. The second hour is filled with a lot side dialogue and scenarios that add nothing to the story or characters and should’ve been cut completely. The romance angle is also handled too much from the perspective of a 14-year-old schoolgirl and the scene where the lovers reunite could be deemed as corny by some.
There is also the issue of Navarre looking directly at an eclipse that conveniently occurs through a broken stain glass window in a church. Normally a person would have to shield their eyes with their hand, squint or at the very least turn away from it after only a few seconds. Yet this character stares at it for an extended period without even blinking, which at the very least would’ve burned dark spots into his field of vision and yet strangely that doesn’t occur.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: April 12, 1985
Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes
Director: Richard Donner
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video