The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro on Blu-ray Disc

Old Style Swashbuckling

Sony Pictures has taken a good adventure movie and made it even better with this Blu-ray version.

The movie stars Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins as successive incarnations of the famous Californian swashbuckler. Hopkins is the Don Diego de la Vega we know and love from the old Disney series (and movies starring the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power.), who at the beginning of the movie is captured and imprisoned, his wife killed, and his daughter stolen by the evil Don Rafael Montero, a powerful but cowardly aristocrat who takes her away with him and raises her as if she were his own daughter.

Jump forward twenty years or so and Don Rafael shows up on California soil again, more hateful than ever and with a plot to set up California as an independent republic bought from Santa Ana with stolen gold.

Don Diego escapes from the prison in which he's been stuck since the film's opening and comes across a now grown up boy who had once aided him (at the beginning of the movie, fortunately, so we know what he's talking about) - the dashing Alejandro Murrieta, who looks amazingly like Antonio Banderas.

Murrieta has a hate on for Captain Harrison Love (Matthew Letscher), a really bad US officer who's in cahoots with Don Rafael. Diego takes Murrieta under his wing, teaches him the ways of the Force (oops, sorry, wrong movie!), trains and calms Alejandro down, explaining to him that only by keeping himself under control and learning how to fight properly can he attain both of their goals of vengeance and freedom. Okay, maybe it is the Force.

So we get a nifty section where Alejandro is taught how to properly buckle his swash before being unleashed upon an unsuspecting enemy army - and upon the equally unsuspecting Elena Montero (wonderfully played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) who, naturally, is the daughter Diego had stolen.

This is a wonderful action movie, yet not a mindless one, that's chock full of terrifically choreographed swashbuckling sword fights and stunts - enough of them that you're nearly exhausted by the time the closing credits start rolling. It's grand old Hollywood-style action done with state-of-the-art moviemaking, much as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" did it in 1981.

And that's not a bad flick to be compared to!

The action is great, the performances first rate, the music and sound is loud and lively, the effects wonderful; in short, "The Mask of Zorro" is a great popcorn movie in the grandest of that grand tradition.

Hopkins does a great job as the aging swashbuckler who still has what it takes, kind of an Obi-wan Kenobi-type. Banderas, often dismissed as nothing but a pretty face, is also very good, bringing just the right amount of brashness to the role. Zeta-Jones is delicious as the gutsy dame longing for adventure, and the rest of the supporting cast perform to the hilt, without ever resorting to scenery chewing.

Sony's Blu-ray does the film justice. The 1080p video transfer is pristine, with colors that leap out off the screen, extreme clarity and even good depth. The audio is presented in dts HD Master Audio 5.1, and envelopes you wonderfully in the clashing of metal upon metal, castanets, guitars, whips, hooves, and people. There's excellent surround, great low frequency effects, wonderfully appropriate music.

Then there are the extras. Well, most of them. You get the BD exclusive "movie IQ", which uses BD Live to connect you to information on the movie while you watch it, for those with short attention spans. Then there's a full length running commentary from director Martin Campbell, the documentary "Unmasking Zorro," some deleted scenes, a music video by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena (the actual music plays over the closing credits of the film), and a couple of teases for the sequel "The Legend of Zorro.".

Great movie, great Blu-ray!

The Mask of Zorro, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
137 min. 1080p widescreen (2.40:1), dts HD Master Audio
Starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher
Produced by Doug Claybourne and David Foster
Written by John Eskow and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Directed by Martin Campbell

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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