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The Count of Monte Cristo

There's no modern equivalent to supporting actor Luis Guzman. Starting with bit parts and one-line roles as early as 1977, the Puerto Rican-born thespian turned into a key player par excellence around 1998 after roles in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh (both of whom have made him one of their stock players). He's become the go-to guy for delivering memorable characters out of a couple of scenes. Perhaps the only actor to compare Guzman to is Walter Brennan — both have an unpredictability that enlivens everything they do. And playing Edmond Dantes' sidekick and faithful compatriot Jacopo in 2002's The Count of Monte Cristo Guzman gives the film a punch by his very presence as one can't help but anticipate what he'll do next. Yet — thankfully — he is not the only reason to watch the film. The Count of Monte Cristo is fine popcorn entertainment of the highest order from director Kevin Reynolds (yes, the guy behind Waterworld). Jim Caviezel stars as Edmond, a sailor framed by his best friend Mondego (Guy Pearce) because of his intense jealousy of Edmond's charmed life, and his beautiful fiancé Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). Though his family think him dead, Edmond is hidden away at the island prison the Chateau D'lf, where he's kept in solitary confinement and is only taken out once a year to be beaten. But fate steps in when he meets priest Abbe Faria (Richard Harris), who is digging his way out. By helping Faria, Edmond gets an education and a map to hidden treasure, which can help him buy his revenge as — with the help of Jacobo (Guzman) — Edmund turns himself into a Count to spy on the (now) Count Mondego, his pretty wife Mercedes, and their son. A loose, rip-roaring adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel, The Count of Monte Cristo is well shot, well acted (especially by leads Caviezel and Pearce), filled with interesting supporting players, and intelligently written (by Jay Wolpert). It's the kind of Hollywood movie that Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make, and it's always a pleasure when they do it right. Buena Vista's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary by Reynolds, four featurettes shown in sum under the titles "An Epic Reborn: The Pen," "Adapting a Classic," "The Napoleonic World," and "The Clash of Steel"; four deleted scenes with introductions by director Reynolds and his editor; a featurette called "En Garde: Multi-angled Dailies," which shows two angles of shooting the sword-fight; and "Layer by Layer: Sound Design." Keep-case.

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