Anthony Hopkins as Zorro? They’re not kidding, and the versatile star of such films as Silence of the Lambs and Howard’s End acquits himself surprisingly well as the Robin Hood of Old California. Wearing a thick layer of bronzer to hide his British pallor – but barely making any effort to hide his British accent – Hopkins swashbuckles with the best of them. At least, he and his stuntmen give a faint approximation of the deeds of a now-aging vigilante.
But this is a feature with not one Zorro, but two! After old Senor Z escapes from prison (and a lengthy prologue), he searches for a likely replacement on the way to avenging himself on his sworn enemy Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson). He quickly adopts bandito Antonio Banderas – who saved Zorro’s bacon as a child – to be his Zorro-in-training.
At this point the film’s template becomes clear. This is not a remake of the old classic Zorro films, but a rip-off of old kung fu movies such as Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master, in which the old martial arts master trains a young hero in secret arts with which to defeat the villain in final battle. Bandares is perfect as the crafty but bumbling student played for laughs – so perfect in fact that it’s difficult to take him too seriously when he (and his stuntmen) are supposedly whipped into full superhero shape.
A common mistake in modern superhero movies is that they spend way too much time in attempted mythmaking while detailing the hero’s origins, and this one is no exception. Another problem is that it has too damn many Zorros running around. How am I expected to get engrossed in the adventures of Zorro 2 while Zorro 1 is still around and kicking ass? It’s almost a case of split affinities. Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Zorro’s hot-blooded daughter, even gets into the act by the end. It’s not hard to imagine the filmmakers bringing her back as “Zorrita” for a sequel.
GoldenEye helmer Martin Campbell does a fine job cranking up the b-movie material, occasionally exciting but not anywhere near as fun as the Douglas Fairbanks versions. James Horner turns in another serviceable but mostly predictable score. Watch for p-fave L.Q. Jones as the wily old codger Three-Finger Jack.