Written & Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, Shannyn Sossamon
Released by: Columbia-Tristar
My Advice: Borrow it.
William Thatcher (Ledger) is, at least in his time period, a nobody. You see, he wants to joust (and since I’m talking about the actual sport rather than the video game with flying ostriches, you suddenly see the time period) but only those of noble birth can do so. When the knight he’s working for suddenly drops dead, he and his fellow attendants (Addy and Alan Tudyk) are desperate. They haven’t eaten, bathed or much of anything else pleasant for several days due to lack of funds. So in order to lay claim to some coin, William has to step up, put on the armor, and pose as an actual knight. That’s when he starts to get ideas…
[ad#longpost]It’s a tale that’s, at its core, old as…something that’s extraordinarily old. The Nobody Into Somebody plot archetype. The kind of thing you can normally pull of blindfolded if you follow the formula. The trouble is that our hero is utterly irrational, our hero’s love interest (Sossamon) is…well, a little too bitchy, and our villain (Sewell) just isn’t that impressive. You also get a two hour and ten minute running time that simply wasn’t necessary and some really odd scenes that just don’t make sense. There are some things to redeem them–although unfortunately they’re not enough.
Addy (a personal fave of mine since he managed to make The Full Monty worth watching), Tudyk and Laura Fraser all play part of William’s entourage–and they’re all quite good. But the standout of the film is Paul Bettany (the friend from the horribly overrated A Beautiful Mind), who plays Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, that Geoffrey Chaucer. He’s loud, he’s boisterous, he…spends an inordinate amount of time butt naked, and he’s hilarious. God knows what liberties they took with the actual man’s life, but Bettany far and above makes the film remotely worth watching. Although not even he can withstand the schmaltz and the running time.
A quick footnote. Surprisingly enough, the fact that the thing is gleefully anachronistic isn’t a problem in the least. It’s set up from the beginning that you’re going to get rock music and princesses who have punk hairdos. So that’s actually rather amusing.
As for this version of the film, this is a Superbit title–which basically means they’ve left off a bunch of stuff in order to give video and audiophiles the best bang for their buck. And it bangs pretty well, I’ve got to say. The picture is clear as hell and the audio especially comes into play when you have lots of lances being splintered against armor. The hits are well…very hittish, if you know what I mean.
Fans of Heath Ledger or big sports whackos will probably want to catch this one for certain, at least as a rental. Everyone else should check it out for Bettany’s sake if nothing else. But I wouldn’t spend too much money on it–that’s just me.
- The Superbit line has been replaced by that Blu-Ray thing. So you’ll want that instead. Click here to buy it from Amazon.
- Click here to buy the regular DVD version from Amazon.
- Click here to buy Heath Ledger stuff from Amazon.