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KNIGHT'S TALE, A

SYNOPSIS:
Itís the 14th century, and lowly William (Heath Ledger) is sent off by his loving dad, John Thatcher (Christopher Cazenove) to grow up as apprentice to a knight, with the hope that his boy could have a better life. Once he gets a chance at being a sporting hero of his times, William grabs the challenge, and spurred on by his mates Roland (Mark Addy), Wat (Alan Tudyk) and the eccentric writer (and forger!) Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), he finds his talents as a jouster and swordsman. When he falls for the beautiful fair maiden Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), he triggers the emnity of top jouster, Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) and his fate is sealed, as they say in 14th century comic books.

Itís a sausage from the sausage factory, but who can resist a sausage sizzle? Itís tasty and easy to digest, and satisfying for what it is. Heath Ledger is the filmís salvation in every sense, delivering a credible character, even when heís asked to overdo it for American tastes. But this is a zany little comedy, after all, so letís not get too worked up about the thing, and it makes a fair fist of giving us plenty of eye candy, exotic period settings with lots of rollick. And frankly, Iím happy with a rollick occasionally. Witty and never (well, hardly ever) taking itself too seriously, A Knightís Tale is a Saturday Knight Live sort of film with little demands on its audience other than a willingness to sit back and jive along.
Andrew L.Urban

Bawdy, hip with plenty of heart, A Knight's Tale is in fact a real cool tale. It's rollicking and rockin' entertainment Ė from its terrific script and direction to the sizzling star power of Heath Ledger. A paradox, Ledger's boyish charm and shyness are counteracted by his maturity; his funky good looks ooze sex appeal, whether his hair looks like a bird's nest or not. Part of the Ledger magic is that we always feel as though there is much more on offer than what's on show. Here, he is athletic, romantic, funny and sensitive all at once. And he cuts a pretty mean figure on the dance floor! Joined by a superb ensemble cast that includes Mark Addy (The Full Monty) and Paul Bettany (soon to be seen with Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind). Bettany is unforgettable as Chaucer, whom we first meet stark naked ('Geoffrey Chaucer's the name, writing's the game'); his penchant for gambling literally takes the clothes from his back. A Knight's Tale is more than just a quirky medieval romp. It's a romance with a poor local boy makes good theme that uplifts. And yes, maybe 'we can change our stars'. Rufus Sewell is broodingly handsome and well cast as William's jealous adversary in matters of the lance and the heart, while exotically beautiful Shannyn Sossamon (discovered pure Hollywood style) is compelling. I especially enjoyed the gorgeous horses, dressed to the nines and shot in spectacular fashion. Well judged direction make the jousting scenes genuinely exciting; after all, this was the entertainment of the day, just like the action in Gladiator. The pedigree of the production team is impeccable and Carter Burwell's rousing and diverse score includes 'music for the restless' (classic arena rock music from the 80s). It may be a tad long, but A Knight's Tale is entertaining escapism for all ages and is a lighthearted frolic to be savoured.
Louise Keller

Heath Ledger's first big test as leading man is a swashbuckling adventure of veiled identity, fair maidens, swordplay, squires, and changing one's destiny. Set to a funky 70s rock-anthem score, it's a lighthearted Princess Bride-ish romp replete with square dancing and tightly choreographed action sequences. But as a period drama interwoven with modern touches, Helgeland has aimed his lance too high. Ledger was right to question the writer-director at their first meeting. "Can you pull if off?" he asked. Baz Luhrmann did so with Romeo and Juliet, which gelled together via elaborate set designs, energetic all-round performances, and Shakespeare's words. Helgeland's much duller tale is a dressed up rags-to-riches routine where an unlikely hero defeats the bad guy and gets the girl. The inclusion of 70s cult hits like Queens We Will Rock You, which opens the film, and Bowie's Golden Years, used as a dance tune, seems joltingly out of place. Likewise, one moment Sossoman's fair maiden wears a revealing chiffon V-neck, the next she's looking like Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's, complete with wide-brimmed hat. Despite strange fashions, Sossoman is little more than wooden eye candy and her fickleness grows
increasingly weary. Heath Ledger, who despite carrying a fair bit of rugged charisma, is let
down by a lack of action sequences or a script that promotes him as a real hero. He's even upstaged by Paul Bettany, who plays writer, gambler, and outdoor jester Geoffrey Chaucer, and steals every scene he's in. But perhaps the most interesting part is the film's back-story. Ledger's rugged-man roles in Roar, The Patriot, and now A Knight's Tale puts him in dangerous typecast territory. And if he's offered the role as the next Mad Max, will he risk a life-long hex? Either way, A Knight's Tale is novel enough but hardly sets the standard for modernising classic tales. Absurd for an otherwise accurate period piece, this is enjoyable but will hardly rock you, as the tagline would have you believe.
Shannon J. Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

Read our SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio clips

KNIGHT'S TALE, A (M)
(US)

CAST: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon

DIRECTOR: Brian Helgeland

PRODUCER: Tim Van Rellim, Todd Black, Brian Helgeland

SCRIPT: Brian Helgeland

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Richard Greatrex

EDITOR: Kevin Stitt

MUSIC: Carter Burwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Burrough

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 23, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: ColTriStar Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: March 20, 2002







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