Sunday, May 09, 2010

ROBIN HOOD - 'Gladiator' in Nottingham

ROBIN HOOD (swashbuckling adventure)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Time: 145 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Forget everything you know about Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. Wipe away images of those Men In Tights robbing the rich and helping the poor, the pretty damsel Maid Marion, Little John and the dastardly
Sheriff of Nottingham. The legend of Robin the Hood gets an overhaul by Ridley Scott and writer Brian Helgeland - and you can hardly recognise the structure of the legend until you get to the end of the movie.

Yup, folks, like The Dark Knight, Iron Manand others, this is another origin movie that sees director Scott teaming up again
with Russell Crowe 10 years after Gladiator!

THE SKINNY: Helgeland's tale deals with the adventures of Robin Longstride (Crowe), an archer in the Crusading army of Richard the Lionheart, long before he is known to all and sundry as Robin Hood. During a battle against the French, Robin learns of the 'death' of King Richard and sees it as an opportunity to flee from the army. On his way back to England, he chances upon the critically injured Sir Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge) and promises the dying knight that he will take a sword back to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow).

At Sir Walter's home near Nottingham, Robin meets Robert's faithful widow Marion (Cate Blanchett) and accepts Sir Walter's proposal to masquerade as Robert, his 'prodigal son'. This means getting involved with the Loxleys' problems like over-taxation by the town's sheriff (Matthew Macfadyen) and helping to protect them from pillaging attacks by King John's emissary Godfrey (Mark Strong).

HITS & MISSES: Early reports about the script suggested that Robin was supposed to be a villain and the Sheriff of Nottingham the hero. This proved to be false because Scott seeks to be faithful to history in this reimagining of the English folklore (mostly told in ballads). Indeed, Scott spends a lot of time on the political intrigues of King John's (Oscar Isaac) court involving Godfrey, William Marshall (William Hurt) and the Queen, painting a realistic and vibrant portrait of 12th Century England. In fact some of the scenes remind me of the TV series, The Tudors, which had a handful of the same co-stars. And that beach landing sequence is definitely reminiscent of the World War Two landings at Normandy!

Anyway, with Crowe and Blanchett (pictured) in the lead, we can always expect powerful performances and rousing scenes of battles and romance. Even though Blanchett's Marion is no maiden, it is easy to root for her because she is as feisty as she is pretty and very handy with a bow and arrow. As for Crowe, it is easy to dismiss his performance as Gladiator Maximus in Nottingham but that may not be accurate. What I had wished for was for more humour than those provided by Mark Addy's Frair Tuck and Scott Grimes' Will Scarlet.

THE LOWDOWN: Robin Hood stands among the great origin stories like The Dark Knight and Iron Man and we look forward to its sequel.


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