Robin Hood

by David Foucher

EDGE Publisher

Friday May 14, 2010

Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood"
Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood"  

After the anemic Kevin Costner version of years past, Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" arrives with just the right amount of historical gravity and production largesse. It lacks the story-punch of Scott and leading man Russell Crowe's beloved epic "Gladiator" - but it certainly makes up for it in style. This isn't the Robin Hood you know, but it's a terrific historical action movie, and it makes for terrific entertainment.

The story begins before - way before - the whole "stealing from the rich to give to the poor" thing. Robin Longstride (Crowe) returns home from King Richard the Lionheart's (get of Eleanor of Acquitaine and Henry II) campaign against the French in the late 1100s to an England bereft of their recently-deceased monarch and suddenly under the rule of younger brother (and ill-fitting king) John (Oscar Isaac). Robin, who has intercepted the crown on its way back to English court, returns with it to Eleanor (Eileen Atkins) and her son - and while John runs amok firing his counsel (William Hurt), replacing him with French spy Godfrey (Mark Strong, looking all bald and nasty), and taxing the crap out of his subjects, Robin honors a dying man's wishes and returns a family sword to aging Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow). He's ultimately convinced by Loxley and his daughter-in-law Lady Marian (Cate Blachett) to assume the identity of Marian's dead husband in order to secure a line of inheritance for their 5,000 acres. All of which goes well until Godfrey makes good on his evil ways and invites the French to dinner, so to speak.

If the plot sounds somewhat confusing, not to worry. Political intrigue and a large cast of characters do not rob the film of cohesion and steam. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland (of "L.A. Confidential fame) manages to keep the plot comprehensible, and intersperses the more mundane elements of the story with ripping action. Scott, of course, more than pulls his weight on that score. He's always been terrific with both battles and love stories - here he's in fine form, culminating in a well-crafted seaside battle sequence that feels frighteningly real.

Ultimately, however, the story feels a bit anticlimactic; it barely has a chance to really ramp up before the credits roll; and given the fact that the King proclaims Robin an outlaw approximately one minute before it's all over, we're left with the feeling that the really interesting part of the story is yet in our future. That's not to say that the picture isn't well worth watching - it reminds me of the historical novels of Sharon Kay Penman in a pleasing way (I could go on watching movies like this indefinitely) - but it absolutely makes you long for the sequel. Who knows if that's actually coming?

Were it not for the skills of Crowe and Blanchett - along with superior secondary efforts from Hurt, von Sydow and Strong - the picture might have fallen flat. They're a formidable cast, with a superb director at the helm; that almost always makes for a terrific film. And "Robin Hood" is that, even if we really didn't need the Robin Hood mythology reinvented for the nth time - unless you can't stand merry men, of which this movie contains but a few. It's not going to win awards, and it might not even win your heart this summer; but it's absolutely worth a few hours of your time.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.