Review: ROBIN HOOD (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Review: ROBIN HOOD (2010)


Interestingly enough, ROBIN HOOD begins life as "Nottingham". No doubt an alternatively fresh title out of the norm, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris's original script revisited that oft-told legend by tweaking the traditional story inside out -- namely portraying the Sheriff of Nottingham in a more sympathetic light and Robin Hood as more of a villain. Not only that, the original idea also recalled that Russell Crowe was set to play dual roles -- both Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham. Strange as it sounds, but it's also undeniably imaginative which is simply a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately all of these exciting ideas were scrapped, and everything is extensively re-written (by genre hack Brian Helgeland). The fresh title itself is also downgraded and sticks to ROBIN HOOD instead. What we have here in the final product, is yet another typical "Robin Hood" incarnation. Never mind the fact that director Ridley Scott attempts to fashion the premise as a prequel and a setup for a sequel -- this so-called revisionist take is a major disappointment in epic proportion.

Set in 1199, we learn that skilled archer Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) has successfully battling war after war in the crusading army of King Richard (Danny Huston) against the France's ten-year Third Crusades. After Richard is killed during a raid, Robin and his men -- including Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes and Allan A'Dayle (Alan Doyle)-- has grown fed up with their soldier duties, and decide to flee a battle. Meanwhile, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) is chosen to safeguard the deceased king's crown back to England. As Sir Robert and his men make their way through the forest with their precious cargo, they are ambushed by a two-faced British traitor Godfrey (Mark Strong) and his band of French soldiers. Apparently Godfrey has made a deal with the French King Philip's aide (Abraham Belaga) to help each other. When the ignorant and reckless Prince John (Oscar Isaac) is crowned king of England, Godfrey becomes his closest advisor and also gives him an advantage to open the gates for a French invasion. As Sir Robert is dying of breath, the fallen knight begs Robin, who intercepts the ambush, to return the sword to his elderly father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) in Nottingham. Soon Robin disguises as Sir Robert to return the crown back to England before continuing his mission to Nottingham. Once there, Robin accepts an offer by Sir Walter to pose as Sir Robert so that now-widowed wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), won't lose the family's land when her father-in-law dies. In the meantime, Godfrey and his band of French soldiers start invading English villages under the guises of collecting taxes for the king. And that's not all, the French is fast approaching from the coast, and they are prepare to invade England in no time.

The new, re-written script by Brian Helgeland is smacked of the same old cliches that plagues today's revisionist take of a traditional story. It's nothing new anyway, considering producer Jerry Bruckleheimer and director Antoine Fuqua has done something familiar before with their 2004's gritty take of KING ARTHUR. While KING ARTHUR is at least has its fair share of rousing entertainment and decent credibility, this movie is an otherwise bloated mess. It doesn't help either when virtually everything in this movie is draining this supposedly lively legend into a typically grim and lifeless affair. The middle part (the love story between Robin and Marion) is especially draggy and so painfully slow-moving that it's actually a chore to sit through. As an origin story of sorts, Helgeland fails to spark interest what makes Robin such a living legend.

And speaking of Robin, Russell Crowe is (surprisingly) a major disappointment. Here, he goes through his same old mugging self as if he is repeating his glum-looking Maximus role in GLADIATOR (2000), only with an unbelievably lazy result. No doubt his Robin character is more of a pathetic bore where he simply doesn't have his heart to portray the role whatsoever. Fortunately, the supporting cast are at least much more interesting than the lead here. Cate Blanchett delivers a robust performance as a feisty and ladylike role as Lady Marion. Except it's a terrible shame that her role is mostly neglected as a stock love interest, especially her non-existent chemistry with Crowe's Robin. Mark Strong, who comes off strong from his wickedly villainous role in last year's SHERLOCK HOLMES, does it again as the cunning Godfrey. As the insensitive Prince John, Oscar Isaac is nevertheless an entertaining actor to watch for.

On the technical fronts, director Ridley Scott delivers his usual sense of visual aura. It's nothing really grand anyway, even though with all the majestic production design by Arthur Max and handsome cinematography by John Mathieson, looking undeniably swell especially when viewed in big screen. Still, nothing comes more disappointing than Scott's grave mistake to showcase most of the action sequences in an annoyingly tight edit and high-rate shutter speeds that propels genre-defining movie like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and GLADIATOR. Nevertheless the action is hard to distinguish and so incoherent that any sense of prolonged excitement is robbed off immediately. Except of course, there is minor moment where Scott does make amend with his kinetic visual flair -- the rousing, slow-motion shot of Robin shooting an arrow (especially during the climatic battle scene in the coast) is a keeper.

Overall, this ROBIN HOOD is a monumental failure seriously deserved in need for major re-vamp altogether.

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