On Guard!

  • 2002
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Adventure

This rip-snorting period yarn from France wisely follows two important rules of swashbuckling adventures: It never lets the action overwhelm the plot, and it never, ever takes itself too seriously. Paris, 1699. Abandoned at birth and raised by two fencing masters (Jean-Francois Stevenin, Dider Pain), Lagardere (Daniel Auteuil) now ranks among France's finest...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This rip-snorting period yarn from France wisely follows two important rules of swashbuckling adventures: It never lets the action overwhelm the plot, and it never, ever takes itself too seriously. Paris, 1699. Abandoned at birth and raised by two fencing masters (Jean-Francois Stevenin, Dider Pain), Lagardere (Daniel Auteuil) now ranks among France's finest swordsmen. But he yearns to learn the legendary secret technique known only to the Duke of Nevers (Vincent Perez) and known as the "Nevers attack" — a powerful, fatal thrust aimed right between an opponent's eyes and driven straight through his skull. Nevers is the nephew of the Duke of Orleans (Philippe Noiret) and the heir to a vast fortune, so naturally there's a scheming relative stewing in the shadows: Nevers' treacherous cousin, Gonzague (Fabrice Luchini), a sneaky sort who's currently next in line to inherit his estate. Gonzague springs into action when Nevers receives word that his tryst with the lovely Blanche de Caylus (Claire Nebout), whom Gonzague also loves, has produced a child. Thrilled by the news, the Count prepares to leave for her father's chateau, where he intends to marry Blanche; concerned by a recent attempt on his life, he hires Legardere to escort him. In exchange for his loyalty, the duke ennobles Legardere and teaches him the Nevers attack. Inflamed with jealousy and furious that he's no longer the duke's heir, Gonzague hires a team of assassins to follow Nevers to Caylus, with orders to make sure that the wedding doesn't take place and that the world never learns of the child's existence. To say any more would be to spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that the outcome of the events at Caylus sends Legardere into hiding for 16 years, during which time the duke's child grows to adulthood and Gonzague assumes control of the family fortune — until Legardere returns to Paris with sword drawn. There's terrific chemistry between Perez and Auteuil — a surprisingly accomplished comic actor who's rarely seen in such lighthearted fare — and at a time when adventure has become synonymous with non-stop thrills, the action is evenly balanced with dramatic development. Veteran director Philippe De Broca relies more on old-fashioned thrust and parry than CGI effects and gravity defying Hong Kong wire work, and while the nearly incestuous "happy ending" may take some viewers aback, the production rates high as a handsome looking, highly entertaining audience pleaser.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: This rip-snorting period yarn from France wisely follows two important rules of swashbuckling adventures: It never lets the action overwhelm the plot, and it never, ever takes itself too seriously. Paris, 1699. Abandoned at birth and raised by two fencing… (more)

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