The Mask Of Zorro (1998)

(In theaters, July 1998) At first glance, there’s nothing very exciting about the concept of Zorro: A masked guy (yawn), swordfighting (yawn) evil Spaniards (yawn) in 19th century California (yawn). And yet, The Mask Of Zorro fills a need you didn’t think you had: To see one good swashbuckling movie about a stylish caped crusader. Antonio Banderas brings authentic looks, charisma and comic timing to the title character. Sultry Catherine Zeta Jones burns the screen. The stunts are great, the swordfighting isn’t butchered by quick edits, the script is okay and the sheer style of Zorro isn’t overshadowed by the unobtrusive direction. One of this summer’s most satisfying blockbusters. Great fun for everyone.

(Second viewing, On DVD, September 1999) Fortunately, this marriage of old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure with modern pacing still holds up amazingly well to a second viewing. This is obviously a by-the-number action script, but the whole atmosphere lifts the film up above your run-of-the-mill film. A trio of extremely capable actor (Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and the breakaway presence of the luscious Catherine Zeta-Jones) and some quasi-classical scenes complete the work. The DVD doesn’t add much besides an unremarkable making-of featurette.

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