A ripping yarn that's survived many movie adaptations, Alexandre Dumas pere's The Count of Monte Cristo, published in 1844-45, offers up more than 1000 pages of love, betrayal, action, intrigue and intricately plotted revenge — the challenge for filmmakers has always been paring it down to manageable size. At its heart is poor Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel), a young man of low birth but decent prospects. Marseilles, 1814: Hard-working sailor Dantes hopes to earn his captain's papers so he can marry his lovely fiancée, Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk) and support his elderly father. But Dantes crossed first mate Danglars (Albie Woodington) on their last voyage: Their captain fell ill and Dantes insisted on seeking medical assistance at Elba, off-limits to ships because deposed emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Alex Norton) is exiled there. Dantes — both illiterate and too honorable for his own good — agrees to deliver a personal letter for Napoleon and for his trouble is denounced to the French authorities by the jealous Danglars and his own best friend, Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce). Wealthy, educated, dissolute and perpetually dissatisfied, Mondego has secretly resented Dantes since they were children — blueblood or not, Dantes is clearly the better man — and lusts for Mercedes. The final conspirator in Dantes' destruction is civil servant Villefort (James Frain), whose ambitions are imperiled by his Bonapartist father (Freddie Jones), intended recipient of the troublesome letter. Declared dead but actually imprisoned at the desolate Chateau D'If, a cruel warehouse for victims of intrigue and treachery, Dantes is starved, beaten by the sadistic warden (Michael Wincott) and nearly broken. His salvation: an imprisoned priest (Richard Harris) of colorful background, who gives Dantes an education worthy of a gentleman, coaches him in the finer points of swordplay, unwittingly provides a daring means of escape and bequeaths to Dantes a treasure map that makes him rich beyond imagining. Sixteen years and much derring-do later, Dantes has reinvented himself as the Count of Monte Cristo and, aided by loyal sidekick Jacopo (Luis Guzman, so out of place in this period piece he's rather marvelous), sets about taking his revenge against those who ruined his life — including Mercedes, now the Countess Mondego. Pearce's performance achieves heights of plummy villainy not seen since the death of Vincent Price, and a little more action a little earlier on wouldn't have hurt. But overall this is solid entertainment, and the time Caviezel and Pearce spent training for their sword fights pays off handsomely.