Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfayden, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle
Synopsis: Another take on a legend already often told on film, Scott’s portrayal of this most famous outlaw attempts to more firmly ground the legend in actual historical events. Robin Longstride is an archer in King Richard’s army during the crusades, providing a plausible background for his skill with a bow. Events lead him from a humble nobody to a man fighting for the rights of his countryman against tyrannic King John following the death of the latter’s brother.
A review by Film Nerd.
I really can’t help but be amused that to date, in the most prominent Robin Hood films released he has been portrayed by an Australian (Flynn), and American (Costner), and now a Kiwi (Crowe), meaning the only truly british portrayal at this stage remains Ewlwes in Men in Tights. That said, in the case of this film, it is not a distraction, as at least Crowe, like Flynn, does at least get the accent right!!
This film did not perform well in the box office. I am struggling to discover why this may be the case. A lot of people branded this as Gladiator in Sherwood Forrest before its release, and this I feel is quite unfair. Perhaps audiences were also fatigued by the Rid and Russ partnership, which has not had a box office smash since it started with said Gladiator. Or perhaps it suffered the same fate as King Arthur. Like that film, this Robin Hood tries to ground the legend in a larger historical context. To do this, some elements of the legend have been subverted, so in the end this is not exactly the film some may expect when they walk into the cinema (or pop the disc in the player). Expectation can be the biggest killer to a film’s prospects, so this may turn people off like it did with the aforementioned King Arthur.
In my opinion, if you let this be the reason you do not enjoy the film, it is your loss. As I loved this film from the opening credits. The cast is stellar, each providing peak performances, even in the smaller roles. You may hate Crowe as a person based on reputation, but there is no denying his acting talent. Add in Blanchett as Marion, who could possibly argue. Then look above at the cast list. von Sydow, Hurt, Huston, Durand… all actors that may not be at the top of the A list, but whom I am yet to see in a poor performance. Special mention I want to give to Mark Strong, already lauded in more than one review of mine, such as Kick-Ass and Sherlock Holmes. I look forward to seeing this guy headlining a film on day.
The fact that this film is more firmly grounded in history was for me also a real delight. Liberties were still taken with actual historical events, just as they were with the legend, but the disparity between the events in each required that to some degree. But this film takes full advantage of the fact that King John was responsible for validating the Magna Carta, the most significant legal document in the history of England, and subsequently any country that was established from British colonies. Though never referred to by its title, one would have to be a fool not to recognise it if they have any passing interest in history.
On top of these elements, do not mistake this as an attempt to make the legend of the Hood into some worthy dramatic reflection. If you are watching Robin Hood, you want action. Simply put, you get it. The opening scenes follow Robin in the Crusades, and perhaps in this case the Gladiator comparisons are apt, the film opening with major battles to introduce our hero. But this is the only line I would draw between the two. Though there are more battles, some of them do look quite new and innovative, and the final battle on the beach overlooked by the white cliffs of Dover was nothing short of spectacular.
If you want the traditional Robin Hood story, go back and watch Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, a film that has a rightful place in the history of cinema. If you want a different interpretation though, and are open to a film starring Russell Crowe, do yourself a favour and grab yourself a copy of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.
4 stars (out of a possible 5)
Robin Hood on IMDB
Robin Hood on Rotten Tomatoes