If you thought the story of Robin Hood couldn’t be portrayed onscreen worse than the 1991 Kevin Costner debacle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves then you haven’t seen Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood yet. It’s not just a bad portrayal of the iconic character — it’s one of the worst films of the year.
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer in King Richard’s (Danny Huston) army fighting the French. When King Richard dies, Robin and his group of renegade archers (the Merry Men) run away and eventually end up in the town of Nottingham. There Robin is asked by Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) to pretend to be his deceased son Robert in order to protect Robert’s wife Marion (Cate Blanchett) from losing their land. The new King of England, John (Oscar Isaac), you see, is a jerk, letting power go to his head and taxing people beyond their means. And if they can’t pay he takes everything from them.
What the movie goes on to tell in a matter of 2.5 hours could have easily been wrapped up in 1.5. I still don’t know who the heck Robin Longstride really is, where he came from, or why they call him Robin Hood (it is briefly and incomprehensibly mentioned near the end). The bad guy, Godfrey (Mark Strong), is a traitor working with the French but it’s never explained why. All the Merry Men might as well have been played by hunks of meat as they have no development whatsoever. Same with Marion, Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen). It wouldn’t be so bad if the action made up for the lack of a concise script, but even that falls flat and made me yawn (and for an archer, I notice Robin doesn’t shoot too many arrows).
Considering the great job Crowe and Scott did working together on Gladiator — which had a decent story, amazing action sequences, and an excellent performance by Crowe — it’s quite a shame they couldn’t have brought that same vibe to this. Here Crowe looks bored and Scott’s direction comes across as sloppy. Strong’s efforts are flat and monotonous, and it could be because he’s played the same character (albeit better) in recent films Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass. I find it hard to believe any of them would do something just for a paycheque so one needs to ask what went wrong?
Long, boring, and uninspired is the best description I can come up with for this. If you want a much better version of the story, pick up Errol Flynn’s 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood (also available on Blu-ray).
On a more positive note the Blu-ray release does look nice on a 1080p display, and the 5.1 DTS-HD sound is quite stunning during the few action scenes. Special features include the theatrical and unrated director’s cut of the film (which adds a painful 15 minutes to the running time) as well as behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and BD-Live capabilities. A regular DVD and a digital copy of the film are included as well.
Film * / Blu-ray *** (out of 5 stars)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong
Directed by: Ridley Scott