Reviewer: Charity Bishop
In the grand old tradition of Alexander Dumas' classic immortal tales of bravado and friendship, Hallmark has given us the "untold" story of La Femme Musketeer -- The Female Musketeer. While the scripting isn't too bad and it does provide some laughs, the movie rambles on for far too long and out-blades itself by being too tongue in cheek. During the early reign of Louis XIII France is torn in battle with Spain. The armies are spread throughout the empire and the monarchy are attempting to impress upon the young king that he should marry Spain's princess. Caught up in his affair with Marie Mancini (Clemency Burton-Hill), the niece of the current high cardinal, Louis (Freddie Sayers) has no interest apart from festivities and pleasing himself. In the meantime his men are dying on the battlefield. What he does not know is that Cardinal Mazarin (Gerard Depardieu) seeks to undermine his rule and seize control of the empire through the influence of his guards, under the ruthless command of Captain Villeroi.
Villeroi at one point desired to become a Musketeer but was denied the position for the feeble worth of his character. He now lives for revenge on the group that dashed all of his hopes, wanting to bring the Musketeers to a violent end. His relationship with the cardinal is self-seeking and untrustworthy but both are striving for the same goal, complete leadership over Louis. Neither figure into account a second generation of Musketeers. Valentine (Susie Amy) is the only child of the famed D'Artagnan of the former king's guard. She has learned swordsmanship from her youth and desires to join the Musketeers. Befitted with her father's sword and determination, she journeys to Paris to make her dream come true. Instead she is met with rejection, for they do not desire a woman to stand among their ranks. Inadvertently she is thrown in with former friends, once boyish and clumsy but now grown up pranksters who wear proudly the blue vest of the Musketeer. Her temperament immediately collides with Gaston (Casper Zafer), but they will be drawn together when a devious plot places the monarchy and the state of the empire in peril.
In England the Duke of Buckingham (Nicholas Rowe) has been assassinated by a member of the French Court, Lady Bolton (Nastassja Kinski). She returns bearing a terrible gift for the cardinal that will grant him ultimate power, and lead to deception, betrayal, treason, and murder. Eventually the original Musketeers (Michael York, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Cazenove, and Allan Corduner) will reunite to save King Louis and his would-be Spanish bride (Kristen Love). To say the plot is clichéd would be an understatement, since it seems impossible for any filmmaker to come up with an entirely new plot for Alexander Dumas' characters. There is always the womanizing Louis, the devious man of the church, the lusty femme fatale, and the notorious captain of the guard. There are a few original ideas spread throughout, such as having a woman in the lead for once, and involving the Spanish princess in a rather a decent role in the second half.
There is reasonable character development and Valentine is a very worthwhile, wonderful character to root for. She's extremely personable, from the beautiful smile to the rapidity with which she draws a sword. Feminists the world over may rejoice as she deals out just what she's given, but is also wonderfully affected by death. To say the entire thing was written with a comical viewpoint in mind isn't very far from the truth; you never doubt it, particularly the comic duels they get into, the sight of a musketeer praying before rolling the dice that he will win and be blessed, or the "original" musketeers bemoaning how old they are and how much their backs hurt. There are some gags that might be deemed offensive by Christians but they were meant comically and not from an anti-religious perspective. As noted, one of Valentine's friends is fond of making a show of praying for grace before he cheats at dice. He does this on several occasions, and also before they're about to go into battle, bargaining with God that he might be able to drag his friends to church -- but no promises. While flirting with a local peasant girl, Gaston agrees with her that he believes in reincarnation and will "see [her] in another life" if not in this one. The cardinal has very little actual faith, using the church instead as a means for power. He tells his captain that he believes "God helps those who help themselves."
La Femme Musketeer has a fairly decent if predictable plot and does give us some classic moments but is a little longer than it should have been and is unfortunately tainted with unsavory sensuality. It would be easier to like a moral hero, and it's hard to root for Louis to remain on the throne when he's such a shameless cad. I know the laws of French morality and their faux religious policies in these and similar films are sadly lacking, but for once it would be nice to have a more positive message to send to fans.
Premarital sex is implied several times (kissing, fade-outs); a married man kisses a woman who then kills him; veiled innuendoes and references to sexual activities; references to extra-marital affairs.
There are several instances of profanity (three or four uses of a**, d*mn, and religious oaths) and some violence.
Many men are shot and killed and/or stabbed in the heat of battle, with sometimes bloody results. The opening scene shows a battlefield red with blood and rampant carnage (none of it beyond your classical PG rating). We rarely see impact but there are numerous sword duels; only once do we see a knife go all the way through a man's chest. Musketeers are forced to flee attackers, crashing through windows, doors, walls, and falling from great heights. Others are punched and/or in the face repeatedly, one man in the groin. A man is stretched out on a table and tortured; he has bloody whip and knife marks all along his face and chest. It's implied he's killed by having a dagger driven through his heart. Valentine is slapped and thrown to the ground, the princess similarly abused.