DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris • PRO: Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott • DOP: John Mathieson • ED: Pietro Scalia • DES: Arthur Max • CAST: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt
They say every nation gets the government it deserves, and if that adage is true, no one told the plebs of middle England, ca. sometime ages ago. In Robin Hood, we are thrust into a turbulent world of medieval political upheaval – was there any other kind of medieval politicking? – in a dark and gritty adventure that would make Errol Flynn blush. Men in Tights it ain’t. And if every generation gets its own twist on the famous yarn, then director Ridley Scott has served this one well.
Robin Hood sees the copper fastening of the myth into historical and political context in a daring interpretation from Scott. Sandwiched between the murky and bloodthirsty reigns of Plantagenet kings Richard The Lionheart and John of England, what we have here could be dubbed ‘Robin Hood: The Backstory’. And it works.
Opening with warmongering Richard’s demise on a French battlefield, we are given a flavour of the man that would be Robin Hood. Russell Crowe plays archer Robin Longstride, replete with fortitude, loyalty and moderate charisma. When he stumbles on the vanquished king’s aides ferrying the crown back to England, he and his merry men’s fortunes take a turn for the better.
Entrusted with returning a family heirloom to its owner by a dying aide, the gang sets off on its merry way – with the king’s crown in a satchel for good measure – to relay the news of the monarch’s demise and to make good on Longstride’s promise. Events soon lead them to Nottinghamshire, where Robin goes on a journey of self discovery, not to mention an unscrupulous turn of identity theft. It is here that we begin to see the myth in its embryonic form. There are shades of the man that would be credited for all eternity as ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’, but here we see a Robin preoccupied with the politics of the day.
The usual suspects are all present and correct, with a curious sense of anticipation as to how events will lead to the hijinks in the forest with which we are all so familiar. A few battles, and some serious rewriting of history, later – Robin Hood writes the Magna Carta anyone? – and things come into focus nicely.
Russell Crowe turns in a competent display as Robin of the hood, although his accent darts back and forth across the Irish Sea quicker than a harlot’s drawers down the local alehouse – just ask Little John and the boys about that one. Suffice to say they were all a good deal merrier for their trip to Nottinghamshire. Cate Blanchett is excellent as the haughty Maid Marion, an iron maiden in more ways than one, while Oscar Isaac’s portrayal as the petulant and absurd King John is also enjoyable.
Increasing taxes to fund wars on foreign soil that the populace has no interest in is an age old tale, and it is fitting that such a scenario sets the backdrop for a story as enduring as this one. Some things never change, and it seems our obsession with the story of the do-gooding archer from Sherwood Forest is one of them. Well worth the admission fee this one.