Ridley Scott and Russel Crow team up for the 5th time to bring to life the “legend” of Robin Longstride, or Robin ‘of the Hood’. The first trailer I saw of this bore uncanny resemblances to Gladiator, probably the most famous of the Crowe/Ridley collaborations. The final product also has elements of it, but just about manages to keep enough of its own style to not be constantly compared.
It is late 12th century England and Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the Third Crusade. Following the death of Richard the Lionheart in battle, Robin and three other common soldiers attempt to return to their homeland, having spent ten years fighting abroad. Along the way they come across an ambush of the King’s guard by Sir Godfrey. The King of France had ordered Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) to assassinate Richard. Having discovered the King already slain Sir Godfrey is chased off by Robin. Aiming to return to England safely and richer in pocket than they left it Robin and his men steal the armour of the slain knights and head for the English ships on the coast under the guise of noblemen. Before leaving the scene of slaughter Robin promises a dying Knight to return a sword to the man’s father in Nottingham.
Upon arrival in England Robin is chosen to inform the Royal family of the King’s death and witnesses the crowning of King John (Oscar Isaac). The arrogant King John shows no remorse to his poor kingdom and demands harsh taxes to be collected, sending Sir Godfrey off to the North with the task of raising revenue. Unbeknownst to King John, Sir Godfrey is an agent of the French King and uses this Royal Decree to stir up enough unrest to cause Civil War in England.
Robin and Sir Godfrey both head to the North of England, unaware that the two are destined to meet again in battle. Robin is also unaware that he is fated to win the affection of the recently widowed Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett), form what will become the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest and win the accolade of Robin of the Hood (Robin Hood), becoming a legendary figure in English folklore.
The role isn’t too difficult for Crowe; like I have said, he’s literally played it before 10 years ago. Except this time, he needs to put on an accent, or about 4. ‘Cause sometimes he sounds like he’s from Liverpool, and others it’s just plain old Russel. It’s comical, but at the same time does undermine the attempted tone of the movie; a serious back story to a legend. Which is odd, because I always thought of ‘Hood as a light hearted character, rather than the miserable one portrayed here. I guess it justifies the “never before told” narrative behind the legend. There’s a reason that it’s never been told: it’s totally fictional. But credit to the screenwriters, they have crafted a believable and entertaining history of a character I thought we all knew well. There have been countless re-tellings of this particular tale, and this genuinely ranks up with the best of them.
I’ve always liked Scott’s movies for his realism when it comes to battles and this is no exception. He gets right in on the action, making you feel unbelievably close by employing handheld cameras to film at the heart of the battle. There are arrows piercing people constantly, with no mercy when it comes to injuries. The death of King Richard is outstandingly gruesome, without actually spilling any blood. Here in the UK, it has given a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification but could have easily passed for a 15 on its violence alone.
One of the best aspects is the character of Prince Richard. Although not the main ‘villain’ per se, that title belongs to Godfrey, his short screen time is filled with menace and dry wit. Again, and I don’t apologise for the constant Gladiator comparing, he reminds me of the Caesar character but with a sense of humour. I don’t really have much to say about Cate Blanchette… I decided today that she has a “wenchy” look about her; she can play the role of a peasant good because she looks like one. Ironically, she won an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth the first.
Robin Hood is a worthy addition to the résumé of Scott, who seems to have been making consistently “good” films since Gladiator. Okay, we’ll ignore A Good Year, but he hasn’t really done anything “excellent”. Sometimes ridiculous, it still managed to keep me entertained until the end. Not a classic, but certainly better than the man with knives for fingers.