Robin Hood

May, 2010, Drama

 

 

Has Russell Crowe gone totally Hollywood, or did he unwisely let director Ridley Scott talk him into doing another Charlton Heston imitation to accompany the one Scott & Crowe delivered a decade ago in Gladiator? That costume epic, (which inexplicably garnered Crowe an Oscar) was a pretentious, violent exercise in historic license nearly as easy to dismiss as Kingdom of Heaven, the director’s Cliff Notes exploration of the Crusades. Alas, Scott’s outdone himself here, stuffing the oft-told tale of England’s favorite thief with pompous dialogue and an astounding array of anachronistic nonsense about the roots of the Magna Carta. While full of the carefully detailed action sequences that have become a signature feature of this director’s historical epics and the presence many a well-known actor, Scott and screen writer Brian Helgeland (responsible for both the asinine story and it’s stilted/ponderous dialogue) have turned the tale of England’s most famous poacher into a leaden political treatise. Errol Flynn must be turning over in his grave…

 

We first meet Robin Hood in France, where he’s assisting King Richard the Lionhearted (a bearded & bloated Danny Houston) in pillaging a French castle on the way home from the Holy Land. Thanks to a staggeringly absurd sequence of plot contrivances, our hero (1) comes into possession of the King’s crown, (2) presents it to Eleanor of Aquitaine (a wonderfully acerbic Eileen Atkins) while posing as one of Richard’s knights (3) delivers a sword to Sir Walter Loxley (the deliciously sly Max von Sydow) the father of Robin’s dead colleague (4) who asks Robin to assume the identity of Walter’s deceased heir and (5) join a rebellion against Richard’s evil brother John, successor to the crown. All this puts Robin and the lovely Marian (Cate Blanchett) into Sherwood Forest as outlaws at the end of the story rather than at its beginning…

 

As Maid Marion - - (in this version she’s the widow of the man Robin’s asked to impersonate) Blanchett brings her usual crisp asperity to a role that would be laughably silly in the hands of a less talented actress. She and Crowe make an interestingly combustible pair and it would be really fortunate if they were to be reunited in a film with more substance. The rest of the huge cast is competent but not commendable, due to the lines which Helgeland (author of the terrific police procedural L.A. Confidential which made Crowe a big star) makes them utter. The sets and costumes are appropriately authentic, the blood and gore ample well detailed - - but alas, this one drowns under a tsunami of contrived rhetoric stretched out over the film’s 2 hour 20 minute running time.

 

Scott has provided audiences with several commercial films of considerable merit during his long career (Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Thelma & Louise) along with an equally impressive collection of clunkers (G.I. Jane, A Good Year, White Squall). His films are always handsomely mounted and gorgeous to look at (he started his career as a set designer for the BBC) but of late the combination of florid overstatement and an attachment to unimportant subjects makes his work seem over-long and its themes over-chewed. His talents are self-evident - - a little self restraint would serve him well.

 

The Verdict? Lovely to look at, but hard on the derriere.

 

      

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