Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William
Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Danny Huston, Vanessa
Redgrave, Oscar Isaac, Lea Seydoux, Scott Grimes
Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Max von Sydow
RunTime: 2 hrs 28 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Violence And Some Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.robinhoodthemovie.com/
Opening Day: 13 May 2010
Hood chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested
only in self—preservation, from his service in King
Richard’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s
death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from
the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation,
where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman
skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader
from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and
salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary
skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together,
they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct
injustices under the sheriff.
It's been a couple of years since Hollywood last gave the classic outlaw Robin Hood a screen incarnation- the last was the Mel Brooks parody "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" starring Cary Elwes. Of course, many of us prefer to remember Kevin Costner as the titular character in "Prince of Thieves", which was also famous for its very-popular theme song "Everything I Do, I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams.
Ridley Scott's take on Robin Hood is unlike those earlier films. Instead, like its tagline suggests, this is a story that hasn't been told- an origin story, if you will- of how Robin Longstride, one of the King's best archers, became Robin Hood the legend. And with his A-list regular Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott has here crafted a rousingly magnificent action adventure that is set to oust Kevin Costner's "Prince of Thieves" as the iconic rendition of the timeless legend.
When we first meet Robin, he is an expert archer in King Richard the Lionheart's (Danny Huston) army. It is the time of the Crusades and the army is making its way to the coast to sail back to London. Right from the start, it's clear Robin isn't just any soldier. When asked by the King if the Gods would look favourably on their conquest, he replies frankly that they have long abandoned God with their unjust violent deeds. But before Robin can be punished for his honesty, the King is fortuitously killed and he escapes into the forest as a renegade with three fellow men- Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle).
On their way to the coast, they stumble onto an ambush led by Godfrey (Mark Strong in yet another villainous role) on Sir Robert Loxly's (Douglas Hodge) cavalry delivering the crown back to London. In dying, Sir Robert asks Robin to promise that he would deliver his sword back to his father, Sir Walter Loxly (Max Von Sydow). Still a man of his own word, Robin honours the promise and goes to Nottingham where he would eventually become leader of the people of the village oppressed by their Sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen).
It is in Nottingham that Robin also meets Lady Marion Loxly (Cate Blanchett), wife of Sir Robert, who has been waiting with steely determination for the return of her husband for ten years. Meanwhile, the ascension of Prince John (Oscar Isaac) to the throne doesn't go well too, setting the stage for an epic heart-pumping finish that will see Robin ascend to the status we have always been familiar with.
In spite of the varied number of characters in the story, never once does "Robin Hood" feel bloated. Instead, screenwriter Brian Helgeland deftly juggles the characterisation of each of these individuals, taking the effort to give every character enough depth and flesh so no one is just a waste of screen space. That's also possible because the story by Helgeland, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris is a richly complex and detailed one, giving much breadth for the characters to develop in their own time as the story unfolds.
Rightfully, much attention has been paid to the key players in the story- Robin Hood, Lady Marion, Sir Walter and Prince John. To contemporize Robin Hood for the modern audience enamoured with flawed heroes, Robin Hood is no longer simply just and upright, but one struggling to come to terms with his own dark past and in the process find the courage to rise up to the occasion. Befitting to his character's ambivalence, Russell Crowe's performance is both intense and brooding and no less commanding either way.
While one may be tempted to dismiss Lady Marion's role as insignificant, she is in fact for Robin Hood a shining example of strength in the face of adversity. Blanchett is terrific as the intrepid Lady, and she shares great chemistry with Crowe- especially in their more intimate scenes that sparkle with uncharacteristic wit and humour. Each of the other actors deserve their own mention too, for Ridley Scott's hand-picked cast is fabulous in their respective roles- in particular, Strong's memorably menacing traitor Godfrey and Mark Addy's Friar Tuck, who has a weakness for the alcoholic honey mead.
Besides imbuing the film with generous heart from its characters, Ridley Scott also does a fantastic job illuminating the themes in the story. Robin Hood was a story about ideals, about standing up for what was right, about 'rising and rising again until lambs become lions' (as one would have heard from the trailer). It also shows how inherently imperfect and insecure Kings are, the extent to which one would cling on so desperately to power and the desire to prove one's worth and its concomitant consequence on the people over whom they presided.
But donít be mistaken that "Robin Hood" is all talk and no action, for it surely is not- and the opening battle scene should set to rest any such doubts. Photographed in a gritty fashion by John Mathieson and skilfully edited to maximum adrenaline-pumping effect by Pietro Scalia, the action in the film, like the opening, is consistently fierce and furious. Indeed, the climactic battle set on a beach at the bottom of steep vertical cliffs is breathtaking, with perfect composition of wide aerial shots, close-ups and "arrow-cam" shots to get you in the thick of the action.
And much as you may have thought otherwise, "Robin Hood" has easily set a benchmark for the summer blockbuster season this year. Like last year's "Star Trek", it is that rare delight that combines a great story with an excellent cast to deliver rip-roaring entertainment filled with lots of heart. In a time when Hollywood has become so preoccupied with adapting this and that Marvel comic book, here is one old-fashioned swashbuckling action adventure that shows you don't always need superpowers to save the day. Sometimes a good ol' bow and arrow will do just fine.
(Easily the best screen incarnation of the classic Robin Hood character- and a thrilling swashbuckling action adventure in the grandest tradition)
Review by Gabriel Chong