Robin Hood (2010) / Adventure-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and some sexual content
Running time: 140 min. (156 min. director's cut)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Kevin Durand, Mark Addy, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Matthew Macfadyen, Scott Grimes, Lea Seydoux
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe team up once again (this marks their fifth collaboration), after several lukewarm box office outings to return to the spirit of their critical and commercial blockbuster that was Gladiator, for another rousing testosterone-charged action-adventure period piece, Robin Hood. It's not exactly the Robin Hood you might be accustomed to, as it feels as if the legend has been shoehorned into a much more grandiose medieval war epic. It's also not, unlike most other Robin Hood films, a fun, spirited swashbuckler, as Robin is more of a noble brawler rather than a roguish, playful thorn. It's a different interpretation, and while competent for much of its run time, there are extended periods when the main character feels dwarfed by the much larger story of a looming war between England and France that surrounds him.
Set near the start of the 13th Century, Robin Longstride is a bowman in the employ of English monarch, Richard the Lionhearted, traveling back from a hard-fought Crusade.
This Robin Hood plays more to the adults than kids, who might become restless that many of the cute moments that permeate many of the Robin Hood stories they may have grown up on have been nearly eradicated for this story. In fact, most of the legend of Robin Hood as most adults might recite it are also suppressed until what feels like a tacked-on ending that finally, establishes the legend to the state to which we are all familiar. Director Scott and screenwriter Bian Helgelaland suppress a good deal of the merriment that most Robin Hood stories inject (they were called the "Merry Men", after all), to present more grit and violent action, where Robin is just as comfortable slashing men with swords or a punch to the gut as he is utilizing his archery skills and ability to gain the upper hand through trickery. And when he does use his bow and arrow, that arrow usually does some serious damage through brutal efficiency, such as through a neck or chest with graphically depicted precision.
Also, this Robin isn't trying to steal wealth from the rich to give to the poor so much as keep the heavy burden of taxation by the avaricious monarch at bay. The romance between Robin and Marian isn't romantic at all, though it does eventually emerge, but only after a form of arranged marriage of sorts to retain the ownership of the family land. Actually, romanticized is hardly what one might call the film at all, showing the difficult life for non-nobles during the Medieval age, along with much of the barbarism, corruption and abuses of power. It's not anything remotely approaching realistic, but it is dramatic more so than playing for laughs, elaborate action pieces or the requisite comeuppance of melodramatic moustache-twirling villains.
With Russell Crowe, what he loses by being a bit beefy and long in the tooth, he makes up for with presence, the guise of instant leadership and heroism, and his formidable acting chops. But, while he's readymade for the protagonist role, the role itself rarely lets you in as to Robin's background or motivation sufficiently to clue us in on why he believes what he believes or does what he does from scene to scene. Mostly, he's not purely good, but he's less corrupt than most of the rest of the men around him, and certainly a better option of living under the regimes of either monarch of the time, thrust into a position of heroism when those who seek destruction threaten what's acceptable for him and his warrior's credo.
While Robin Hood is mostly successful as a movie, it might overstay its welcome for many viewers, especially those who've signed up for a more traditional Robin Hood adventure. Only in the final few scenes does the film set up for (perhaps) future adventures with Robin and friends as outlaws, but, in a film that fruns about the 2.5 hour mark, the shortcut taken in the narrative to push Robin from hero to outlaw seems to be fudging things a might too fast. It is beautifully presented, with sometimes stunning cinematography and seamless effects (though the French beachhead invasion hearkens to what would likely only be represented in a WWII flick), and the actors are, to the man, well cast and played. And yet, if there's one thing the film doesn't manage to do it's tug heart strings or o0- ]raise pulse levels enough to be excited at the prospect for any sequels the film sets itself up to have, which, given how much talent and budget this endeavor had in its favor, can only be viewed as a disappointment.
©2010 Vince Leo