“ROBIN HOOD” (Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett & Mark Strong)
I was drawn to this film for the cast and nothing else; didn’t have a lot of interest in seeing another re-make of an oft told tale. I like the idea of ‘Robin Hood’ – robbing from the rich to give to the poor – but I’m not big on period pieces, especially those involving foreign countries (& yes, despite the fact that England did eventually give us The Beatles, I find the idea of their ‘monarchy’ to be idiotic & have never understood why the people have put up with it for so many centuries)
This version of Robin opens at the turn of the 12th Century as King Richard, The Lion-Heart (Danny Huston, horribly miscast) is concluding his 10 year ‘crusade’; specifically as his men are storming a French castle. Among those men is an archer named Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe)
Robin and 3 of his carousing co-horts (Little John, Alan A’Dayle & Will Scarlett) are placed in stockades when Robin ‘disrespects’ the King by speaking the truth. “When I am released, I am gone from here,” Robin tells the others. When they ask if they could come along, Robin smiles & says, “The more the merrier,” & thus the legend begins.
It’s a familiar story, so I won’t go into detail as to how Robin comes to reluctantly impersonate Sir Robert Loxley of Nottingham, but thanks to the acting prowess of the 3 lead actors mentioned with the title, this tale of the ‘origins’ of the legend is, for the most part, an enjoyable ride.
That’s not to say they don’t encounter a few bumps in the road – Like with Mark Strong’s evil bad guy, Godfrey – A Frenchman posing as an Englishman in order to bring down the British empire – Strong, head shaved to attract the NBA fan crowd(?) relishes the role & he is very adept at playing someone you love to hate. I didn’t have any problem with Mark’s performance, but it did bother me that they gave him a large ugly scar at the corner of his mouth – It immediately brought to mind Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’... Dumb idea; you lessen the impact of Strong’s Godfrey by reminding us of one the most memorable villains in history.
I particularly got a kick out of the homage that was paid to ‘Monty Python & The Holy Grail’ where Robin’s hooded visage blocks the path of Godfrey’s men & he sternly warns them that ‘none shall pass’, followed by a smirk from Crowe.
The film’s take on the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden) is an unusual one as he is shown as a somewhat cowardly bumbling boob – not exactly a worthy adversary for the cunning archery expert as they prepare to lock horns in the next installment of this planned ‘trilogy’. Or maybe that’s a good omen – making the sequel more playful would actually be an excellent idea as this film was a bit laborious at times; which is the problem I have with period pieces – they spend so much time setting the mood of the era they detract from the storyline.
Cate Blanchett’s Marion isn’t one of her more memorable performances, but she’s one of the best actresses alive so it is nearly impossible for her to hit a sour note.
William Hurt & Max Von Sydow add to the impressive cast & Oscar Isaac’s take on King John took a little getting used to, but he won me over in the end.
Oh, and the reason Danny Huston failed to connect with me as a realistic King Richard?
He supposedly was on the tail end of a 10 year crusade but he was so fat his horse appeared to be struggling to carry his lard butt across the battlefield. In other words, he just didn’t look very ‘kingly’ & I simply felt that a man who had been on a decade long quest of conquering should have been quite a bit leaner than Danny.
I’ve read where some have complained that this is more like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ than a re-telling of Robin Hood & His Merry Band Of Thieves – Well, the only similarity to ‘Ryan’ is the gritty way the battle scenes were filmed, but come on, there’s a huge difference between being shot by an enemy you can’t even see & the hand-to-hand combat & crude weaponry that was used in the 12th Century. And I didn’t want the same old ‘Robin Hood’ looking dashingly gay in his green tights – At least Russell Crowe’s Robin of the Hood looked believable when he embraced & ‘Maid’ Marion.