Robin Hood Review

Posted: July 1, 2010 in Review
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Robin Hood Review

Good old Hollywood. You can always rely on a group of money-hungry filmmakers to try and redo a legend and claim it’s ‘historically accurate’. This latest attempt at rediscovering the Robin Hood legend reunites Russell Crowe with director Ridley Scott and could only be less historically accurate if it was set in space.

It’s the crusades and Robin Longstride (Crowe) is an archer, fighting for King Richard (Danny Huston) alongside a few of his mates – Alan A’Dale (Alan Doyle), Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and Little John (Kevin Durand). When King Richard bites the big one courtesy of a French arrow, the four mates decide that the crusades are going wrong and head off to get to the ships home before the rest of the army does. Just when they’re heading home, they come across a French ambush that has wiped out a group of English knights. Aiding a dying Robert Loxley, Robin finds himself promising to take the knight’s sword home to Nottingham, where Loxley’s father (Max Von Sydow) tends to the land with Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett).

Meanwhile, there is treachery afoot. The newly crowned King John (Oscar Isaac) is advised by his best friend Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) to collect taxes from the people to pay for the war effort. Unfortunately, Sir Godfrey is working for King Phillipe II of France and the taxes are a ploy to create a civil war in England.

The cast on offer is, frankly, amazing. Mark Strong is one of the best modern villain actors money can buy and he’s at his insidious best here, creeping under the skin of the equally brilliant Oscar Isaac. The relationship between the Merry Men is excellent, both distinctly recognisable and highly amusing. It’s a bit of a shame to note that the weak links here are Crowe and Blanchett. Crowe’s accent wanders all over England, while Blanchett simply doesn’t give the role the feisty nature it’s been written with. Both are excellent actors and at several points they truly become the characters they’re playing, but it is both disappointing and jarring to be brought out of the moment so often.

It’s also a shame that both Mark Addy’s Friar Tuck and Matthew Macfayden’s Sheriff of Nottingham are little more than cameos. And that’s the major problem with this film – it’s trying to find a new way to tell a very old, very well-known story. Does it succeed? In some cases, yes. While a good portion of the film is spent simply getting Robin to Nottingham, another large chunk is spent introducing all the characters the audience is familiar with. A lot of the time, this seems to happen with a bizarre ‘clunk’ as Character A walks in, says who they are, and buggers off again.

When the film works, however, it’s a distinctive Ridley Scott epic. The battle scenes are a sight to behold – fantastically choreographed and beautifully shot – while the landscape is really quite stunning.

The real problem is that it’s really not that historically accurate. The French invade England (huh, funny how that was never covered at school), Marion never rides side saddle and there’s a strange air of modernity to the tavern scenes. Still, this is a film based on star power, not story telling, and in that it is a success.

Overall, it’s not a disaster, but it divides its attention between being realistic and fantastical too often. The result is a slightly jarring film that staggers from historical plot points to introductions of characters like a newborn foal. If you like Ridley Scott action, then there are a good number of scenes you’ll love. If you like Robin Hood, however, you’ll likely be disappointed.

3 stars

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