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A Knight's Tale

'HE will rock you', promises the poster, a reference to the Queen classic which an enthusiastic crowd sing in this modern take on medieval jousting.

A Knight's Tale

'HE will rock you', promises the poster, a reference to the Queen classic which an enthusiastic crowd sing in this modern take on medieval jousting. A Knight's Tale is part swashbuckler, part romance and part comedy.

Nothing wrong with that, but we've seen it all before, and no amount of 'contemporary' songs in the soundtrack can hide that.

William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) has always dreamt of being a knight, despite his humble birth. When his Liege Lord dies just before the final round of a jousting competition, he gets his chance.

He bravely steps into the fray, ignoring his limited jousting ability, and finishes off the victory. Trouble is, he's done it by pretending to be his deceased former employer.

Deciding that his lowly position shouldn't be a drawback, William, aided and abetted by a rag-tag bunch of friends, takes on the identity of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein.

His 'royal' status is confirmed by some dubious documents provided by, of all people, a young Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who also becomes his pre-show announcer, wowing the crowds with his witty wordplay.

The newly-christened noble takes the jousting world by storm, with his fearless style and never-say-die attitude. He also catches the eye of the token fair maiden, sultry Jolie-alike Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon).

None too impressed with this young upstart is Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell - the type of villain who'd twirl his 'tache if he had one), who has long been cock of the walk in these circles. He immediately takes a dislike to young Ulrich/William and sets about upstaging him.

Meanwhile, William/Ulirch is also re-united with his long lost father who set him on this knightly course at a young age.

You can probably work the rest out for yourself, needless to say it all culminates in a showdown between these two would-be champions.

A Knight's Tale does have some funny moments, notably those that involve Paul Bettany's Chaucer. He's a real scene-stealer, a medieval Withnail with a gambling problem.

Heath Ledger is a passable leading man, although he comes across better early on, before Bettany arrives to upstage him and the onset of his cardboard romance.

William and Jocelyn fall in and out of love for no obvious reason. Why? Because the plot demands a roller-coaster romance, that's why.

The characters seem almost exasperated that they're having to go through all this, as if they've read the end of the script and know they'll end up together.

It could have all been chopped out, meaning the film would be the half-hour shorter it needs to be.

In jousting, writer/director/producer Brian Helgeland has uncovered the least interesting spectator sport since crown green bowling, and by the second or third bout there's really no need to see anymore.

And who told him that Thin Lizzy and Queen would make for a modern soundtrack? Are today's teens ready to get down to some classic rock?

You'd guess not, so why not go the whole hog like Plunkett & Macleane and use interesting contemporary music?

It would work better than obvious and dated choices like The Boys Are Back In Town (for the big return to London - please) and a pedestrian score from the normally excellent Carter Burwell.

If you're looking for an inoffensive couple of hours with pretty faces and a few jokes then you'll come away satisfied.

Go in expecting a post-modern exploration of historical events, though, and you may as well have stayed at home.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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