Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Zorro‘s biggest coup, watching it back, is that it isn’t a Wild Wild West romp of grand stupidity and a lack of self-awareness. Instead, it’s more on par with spectacular feats of filmmakers like Princess Bride and Pirates of the Caribbean, classics that still stand as some of the greatest adventures we’ve ever seen on screen. The Mask of Zorro isn’t quite that caliber, but it’s not far off either, it’s simply been forgotten in the haze of 90s entertainment. Well, I’m here to alert you to the fact that it still exists, still packs a punch, and may very well be in the top tier of family-style, Friday-movie-night action flicks, a genre that’s much maligned and often fairly so, but can also deliver us a real gem from time to lucky time.
Long ago, the black-masked vigilante Zorro protected the people of California from its evil Spanish oppressors, who only wished to rule them through the overbearing and overtaxing Dons. Mexico’s rule was coming, but the Don’s would survive, so Zorro would always be needed to help fight for justice. Unfortunately, the wicked Don Raphael discovered Zorro’s real name, Diego de la Vega. Imprisoning de la Vega and taking his infant child as his own, Raphael fled to Spain, leaving California to grow under Mexican control for the next 20 years. Returning to take over the land he once coveted, Raphael will have no one to stop him this time, unless Zorro returns. Too old to take up the mask himself, de la Vega must train the rash, angry, yet dashing Alejandro to become the hero that once served as a symbol of hope to the people of California, while attempting to contact his beautiful daughter Elena, who is now a grown woman and has just caught Alejandro’s eye.
Martin Campbell began with No Escape (one of my personal favorites) & GoldenEye (Brosnan’s first 007), and would follow Mask of Zorro with Vertical Limit, Legend of Zorro, Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness, Green Lantern, and The Foreigner; a true mixed bag of great and downright hideous. Stuart Wilson is an awesome villain in both No Escape and Mask of Zorro, which are both films fueled by audiences’ hatred for the antagonist, so bravo to Campbell for knowing what worked. And besides the weird ethnic mix-ups that make very little sense if you think about them too hard, the cast of this film is well thought-out: Banderas, Hopkins, Zeta-Jones, Wilson, Matt Letscher, LQ Jones. They all pulled together underneath a glorious soundtrack to deliver a perfect big screen rendition of the old show, doing it the justice is deserved and giving it wonderful nods throughout. This style of action might seem outdated now, but it’s not as easy to pull off as it looks, and it’s produced for no other reason than for our enjoyment. Zorro is exactly that; a gift for us to take home and be entertained by, nothing else, and it does that job so well we don’t even stop to give it the credit it deserves, we simply take it for granted. Well no more; Mask of Zorro needs to be elevated among the company it should have been keeping all these years.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆