Sunday, November 7, 2010

Robin Hood (2010)

Directed by Ridley Scott.
2010. Rated PG-13, 140 minutes.
Russell Crowe
Cate Blanchett
Oscar Isaac
Max von Sydow
Mark Strong
William Hurt
Danny Huston
Mark Addy
Kevin Durand
Léa Seydoux

The legend of Robin Hood, here played by Russell Crowe, has survive for ages by keeping him fairly simple. He and his band of merrymen, plus Lady Marion (Blanchett), roam Sherwood Forest and steal from the rich only so that they can give to the poor. Have you ever wondered how he wound up there? Me neither. However, in Ridley Scott’s sparkingly grimy update on the character that’s precisely what we find out. Oh, if you’re vexing over the oxy-moronic “sparkingly grimy” you have to see it to understand. Dirty people have seldom looked better.

Not content to merely be about our favorite archer, we’re treated to several other storylines to fret over. Most notable is one that emphasizes the difference between King Richard the Lionheart (Huston) and his brother and eventual successor John (Isaac). This supplies us with our hero’s reason to be heroic. Of course, there is also the love story and a couple other things going on. It’s not as convoluted as it sounds. Most of them breathe well enough on their own and come together nicely.

In the lead role, Russell Crowe does what Russell Crowe does. It’s not up there with his best, but it’s solid work, nonetheless. He’s actually outdone by Cate Blanchett as his love interest. Overall, the acting is very good. You should expect no less from the excellently assembled cast. The action scenes are solid, but not spectacular and evoke memories of Braveheart. However, they don’t quite measure up.

Evoking memories is a bit of a problem for this movie. It seems to blend the aforementioned Braveheart with another Scott/Crowe collaboration: Gladiator. The main problem is there seems to be little difference between our newly crowned King John and Gladiator’s Commodus, save for that whole incest thing. Instead of becoming something grand, it turns into a rather bland epic. It’s not bad, but it isn’t likely to stick in your psyche for very long.

Despite the best efforts of Kevin Cosner and Mel Brooks, the image most of us have of Robin Hood is one of Errol Flynn practically dancing up the stairs while sword fighting with multiple henchmen. Maybe we think of Flynn swing from the chandelier or from some other moment culled from all the fantastic cheese that movie provides. All the while, he’s wearing the unmistakable bright green tight and funny mustache. Hmmm…I’d dismissed all charges of homoeroticism against the classic until I wrote this paragraph. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just had a revelatory moment, that’s all. Anyhoo, the 21st century version is a solid, but flawed effort not likely to change the reality of our perception of what Robin Hood should be.

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