Published May 13, 2010To title this film Robin Hood is a bit misleading. Reductive accuracy of its components would label it Bravehood Begin. At least a different title would diffuse questions of why these characters were used to tell this political, medieval war story.
Most expectations of what comprises a retelling of the Robin Hood mythology are jettisoned rather forcefully, though many superficial nods to previous iterations remain. Parchment-backed text lays out the basics of King Richard's crusade and the condition of England. Oddly, a shoehorned scene of masked bandits stealing grain from the estate of Marion, uh, Loxley, breaks up the introduction.
Cut back to the text and the story of Robin Longstride begins, mid-siege, in the thick of Richard's crusade. After the first of many raw, exhilarating battle scenes, the common longbow man is singled out by King Richard to tell him the truth of God's feelings about his crusade. His only qualification for this thankless task is being honest about starting a campfire fight with a massive fellow named John.
Richard's gratitude binds the merry men, quite literally; they're to be whipped for insolence while the rest of the army continues the siege. Shit goes down, Robin and friends escape, only to stumble upon an ambush to kill the king, and end up taking on the roles of the slain knights in order to get back to England. It only gets more convoluted from there: Robin Longstride poses as Robert Loxley, giving Ridley Scott all the more reason to strip Robin of the characteristics that make him the Hood. It's easy to tell who showed up to work and who just showed up in this film.
Russell Crowe's Robin is subdued and devoid of charm; Mark Strong simply coasts on his character's villainous actions. Cate Blanchett gives a reliably nuanced performance as Marion (no maid here) and Max von Sydow is obviously excellent as Sir Walter Loxley. The real standouts, however, are Kevin Durand as Little John, a daunting physical presence and increasingly exceptional actor, and Oscar Isaac as Prince John, who relishes being the brattiest douche in the land.
Friar Tuck's still a mead fiend and Robin still occasionally fires his bow in slow-mo, but little things like robbing from the rich and giving to the poor fall by the wayside. In attempts to tell a different tale with familiar characters, Scott has ignored what made this hero a legend. (Universal)