The man done good. Brian Helgeland, the screenwriterfor such classics of the Blockbusters Bargain Bin asthe Mel Gibson-starring Conspiracy Theory and Payback,has written, produced, and directed his first film.And it doesn’t have big bad Mel in it!
Perhaps very slightly based on Chaucer’s A Knight’s Talefrom his bestselling children’s compendium ‘TheCanterbury Tales’ (I maintain that children would befar more attentive in history lessons if the book wereused), this comedy tells the story of a peasantsquire’s dreams to become a knight.
Following theuntimely death of his boss, the squire, convincinglyplayed by Heath Ledger, takes his place in thejousting ring and wins the tournament. But oh, don’tyou know- one must be of noble birth to participate.Ledger has dreams of winning the world championshipsin London, and their ancestrial problem is solved bythe appearance of a butt-naked Geoffery Chaucer, whoagrees to provide royal patents in exchange for foodand water.
Yes, I said naked.
Although this may sound slightly out of place, Ishould say that this is no historical saga. From themoment you see the jousting fans dancing and screamingto Queen‘s We Will Rock You, you know this ain’t noserious Hollywood adventure. This is comedy- purecomedy- mixing Monty Python antics and humour withalmost faultless and wholly believable acting fromespecially Paul Bettany’s Chaucer, but also themajority of the cast. The film also manages to retainan air of intelligence, due largely to the fantasticscript, and the fact that no jokes are used too oftenor repeated too much.
The only let down is the fantastic Rufus Sewell’sbad guy. Contradiction? Yes, probably, but Sewell isjust too serious for the role.
The music mixes Jerry Goldsmith-style orchestralwriting with Robbie Williams, and all the better forit. The jousting scenes are well-made, and evenslightly gripping. You’ll walk out with a smile onyour face, and a spring in your gallop. Great stuff.