The Asylum wins some and loses some when it comes to its mockbusters. When the big film they’re ripping off is a success, their cheap little film can suck up some of the money floating round; but when it’s not, their choice to ride its coattails can seem odd – and so it is with “The 3 Musketeers”, the big version being a critical and commercial disaster. The Asylum’s version, which thanks to the public domain nature of the original story, could have been a much closer adaptation than they ended up making, owes a lot to films like “The Losers”, “Red”, and “The A Team” – while still keeping some of the main, more famous plotlines and characters from Dumas’ novel.
We see the Musketeers in action in North Korea first, wisecracking their way through a few fights, some gun battles and the stealing of a helicopter. They’re an elite special forces unit – the best of the best from all the wings of the armed forces. We’ve got Aramis (Michele Boyd), the sexy ass-kicker; Athos (Xin, I love actors with one name) the martial arts / parkour guy; and Porthos (Keith Allen) the tech genius / comic relief. They’re doing great until they’re betrayed by the evil Cardinal, who’s trying to start a war between the USA and North Korea…
Okay, I need to step in for a moment. North Korea is a country so poor it can’t afford to feed its own people, and there is absolutely no way it would ever be the remotest threat to the USA. Films like this and “Red Dawn” would much rather use China, a country that absolutely could be a threat, but the problem with real actual threats is they don’t love being insulted, so films that show them as the bad guy don’t get sold to China, and film companies like profit much more than they like sticking to reality in any way.
So, the Musketeers are personae non grata, and it’s all down to the mysterious shadowy “Cardinal” (Alan Rachins, aka the hippy Dad from “Dharma and Greg”). He’s in charge of a group of former Musketeers who are now some private military contractors – again, a nice scapegoat when the people you really want to show as the villains are the US Army. He’s even got a rough approximation of Milady DeWinter helping him out in the field!
But it’s when D’Artagnan is introduced that things get a bit confusing. She’s an analyst for some wing of the Army, reporting to the General, David Chokachi from “Baywatch”! Not only is she super-smart, but she’s a former Olympic fencer (as is he, which comes in important near the end), knows tons of martial arts, you know the drill. She wants into field agent work, but needs to learn patience according to ol’Chok. This scene takes place on the same set as the military base in “Super Cyclone”, and if I had to guess I’d say it was The Asylum’s offices (there’s a scene later on, the nerve centre of the military contractor’s headquarters, which was also the control room for the oil rig in “Super Cyclone”. I love that film).
She’s given a bit of nothing work by a co-worker, which involves going to see a bonkers old man…who’s not bonkers at all!…and it’s here she gets sucked into the conspiracy and tracks down the Musketeers to get their help. So…she’s an actual descendant of a chap called D’Artagnan who was a Musketeer for Louis XIV, but Portos, Athos and Aramis are all code names. It’s a confusing clash – is the book famous or not? Ah, who cares.
So, she’s on the run, but has the information about the Cardinal’s plans. How do she and the Musketeers get on? Porthos drops obscure quotes from old 1980s action films, and while they’re trying to resolve “Operation Dumas” D’A gets double-crossed by the General, and there’s capture and escape and a mission to stop the Cardinal from killing the President and starting war with North Korea.
Before I get on to the bit about if it was any good or not, there’s a couple of quite jarring moments in this. While escaping, two of our heroes – rather than knocking one of their assailants out, as they’ve been doing up to this point occasionally, set him on fire! This seems over the top, I hope you’ll agree. And secondly, while escaping in a helicopter, D’A (who happens to be black, played by the beautiful Heather Hemmens from the sadly missed “Hellcats” and the sadly unmissed “Rise Of The Zombies”) orders Porthos to hurry up. He turns and goes “yes massa, sorry massa”. I can understand them writing the script before they cast any of the parts, but to keep that line, so redolent of slavery, and have a white man say it to a black woman must have set off an alarm bell somewhere on set, surely? Maybe I’m being too sensitive.
The weird thing is, this is a pretty good film! If you can ignore the extraordinary cheapness of the film – Camp David, the President’s rural retreat, appears to be represented by a portakabin and a small cottage, for one – then there’s a lot of fun to be had. There’s a lot of banter between the Musketeers and it works well, being light, funny and character-appropriate (although I have to assume if I’m ever in the middle of a firefight I won’t try and hit on any of my female co-workers) and while they could do with hiring a decent fight co-ordinator, or training their actors better, I understood why person A was fighting person B and enjoyed it. It feels distinctly strange to say this, but I enjoyed a film made by The Asylum, with basically no qualifications.
Rating: thumbs up
PS. When you start noticing it, you won’t be able to stop, but it seems like they hired a different editor for the last half-hour of the film. There’s hundreds of weird stuttery little cuts in the middle of nothing scenes – so, someone will be getting out of a car and what would take 5 seconds of screen time has some frames chopped out so it ends up taking 3. I have no idea what they were trying to achieve with it, but it’s bit odd.