Robin Hood

Robin Hood

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Forget about Robin Hood riding through the glen, looking a bit fey in Lincoln green - the prince of thieves gets a distinctly Braveheart-style makeover in Ridley Scott's latest epic, which is about as far removed from Errol Flynn, Disney and Kevin Costner's incarnations as Sherwood Forest is from the battlefields of France.

In order to bring fresh blood to the legend, we meet Robin in the days before he was 'in da hood' in opposition to the Sheriff of Nottingham and the rotten state of King John. In this reimagining - history scholars and, for that matter, myth lovers, would do well to avert their eyes - we first encounter him as plain Robin Longstride, serving among King Richard's army as the troops make their way back from the crusades via a little light raping and pillaging in France.

Copy picture

Richard (the 'stunt' casting of Danny Huston continues) is no Lionheart here, but rather a drunken disaster of a king, who soon comes to a sticky end. Robin, and his not-so-merry men, see the death as an opportunity to quit the service of king and country but just as they are showing a clean pair of heels they come across the aftermath of a forest ambush. The king's men bearing his crown back to England - including Sir Robert Loxley - have been slain. As the altogether more upper-class Robert lies dying, Longstride makes a deathbed promise to return Loxley's sword to his father (the ever-watchable Max von Sydow).

What ensues is a hybrid epic - part romantic drama, part origins story, part politically inflected action film, and that's before we even get to Robin's 'daddy issues'. The emotional heart is served by a will they/won't they romance offering a twist on The Return Of Martin Guerre - as Robin finds himself not only assuming the identity of Loxley in order to secure safe passage home but being encouraged to keep it by Maid (now Lady) Marion's father-in-law (Loxley's dad) in order to help protect their land from the money-grabbing King John. The film is at its strongest in the scenes between Crowe and Blanchett, as Marion - both no-nonsense in attitude - as they spar verbally and bring some much-needed humour to the discourse.

Scott is striving for Shakespearean rather than swashbuckling - right down to Robin getting a 'Prince Harry' style speech - but despite Crowe's physicality in the role, the characters all lack weight. Instead of trying to show what really makes Robin tick, the script writers spread the subplots on thick. There's the overall sweep of Robin trying to save Loxley's land, plus political intrigue courtesy of King John's best buddy doing his best to bring down his former friend on behalf of the French as well as that gosh-darned romance, all vying for screentime - of which, as per usual where Scott is concerned, there is an unhealthy amount. The actors mostly bring a decent game - although Crowe has clearly been spending rather too much time listening to Scott, since his northern accent has a distinct (and unnatural) Geordie twang in places. But there is not enough depth to really root for them in that Braveheart or Henry V way we ought to.

The sharpness of the digital video used also does the period no favours. While the battle scenes are undeniably gripping, everything looks just a little bit too clean and Scott seems to have a thing for 'ambient' animals - with creatures turning up all over the place in a bid to add authenticity. The trouble is, that with pictures this sharp, there's something slightly unreal about mud on a goose - as though it has spent an hour in make-up being artfully smeared before being allowed to make its mad dash in front of Robin's horse. Plus, its fair to say that when you get to the point of being fascinated by mud on a goose - and the make-up department that put it there - that the story is playing second fiddle.

Entertaining but too complicated for its own good, this Robin Hood will doubtless make off with some good box office, but is unlikely to steal your heart.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2010
Share this with others on...
Robin Hood packshot
Robin goes back to his roots before the hood.
Amazon link

Read more Robin Hood reviews:

Nick Da Costa **
Stephen Carty *1/2

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, Douglas Hodge, Léa Seydoux

Year: 2010

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, UK

Festivals:


Search database:


If you like this, try:

Braveheart
Ironclad