The Legend of Zorro

By Philippa Hawker
December 29, 2005

A cheerfully old-fashioned adventure, with a dashing hero and a spirited heroine.

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Run Time
130 mintues
United States
Martin Campbell
Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Nick Chinlund, Rufus Sewell
The impractical nature of the superhero cape was made very clear in The Incredibles - but that's not the kind of thing to deter Alejandro de la Vega, aka Zorro. Our well-known avenger once again dons the black cloak, puts on the mask, picks up the bullwhip, tips the wide-brimmed black hat and goes out properly dressed for fighting evildoers. A Saviour of the People's gotta do what he's gotta do, and why change the outfit?

There are, however, other complications. At the beginning of the film we discover that Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) had promised his feisty wife, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), that he would hang up his mask and devote himself to the family. But as long as there are bad guys doing bad things out there, it's a tough ask. And it looks as though the marriage will founder on this broken promise.

The Legend of Zorro is the sequel to The Mask of Zorro (1998), in which Alejandro, a one-time thief, inherited Saviour of the People responsibilities from his father-in-law, the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins). As was the case in the first film, swashbuckling heroism is required to thwart villains with nefarious political intentions.

This time, there's a fiendish scheme to prevent the state of California from joining the Union, and it involves an ancient order of knights, a haughty Frenchman called Armand (Rufus Sewell), a dastardly henchman with wooden teeth (Nick Chinlund) and a plot device straight out of Hitchcock's Notorious. (There also seems to be a reference, in a polo-cum-jousting scene to Sewell's role as a haughty aristocrat in A Knight's Tale.)

On the surface, Alejandro is a debonair landowner without a care in the world: his little son, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) has no idea of his father's secret life, nor the reason his parents have separated. Against the villains' guns, explosives and scores of henchman, Zorro has a limited array of weapons - little more than his well-trained horse and his fencing and somersaulting skills.

The Legend of Zorro is a cheerfully old-fashioned adventure, with a dashing hero and a spirited heroine played by actors who seem to be having fun with their roles. There are some creaky elements to the plot, even taking the deliberate slapstick and absurdity into account, and the narrative of family responsibilities is pretty clumsy.

But there's nothing awkward about the stunts and action sequences, involving improbable backflips, extravagant swordplay and dangerous activities atop steam trains. At these moments, the old-style Saturday matinee movie comes to life again.

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