Robin Hood (2010)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Mark Addy, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Scott Grimes

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Rating: 1 2 3

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Marion

Think you know your Robin Hood? Think again. For this is the hooded man as 'reimagined' by Ridley Scott, with a grizzled, laconic, definitely non-tights-wearing Russell Crowe in mind. So no treehouses, no arrows split in two, no pointy hats with feathers in and definitely no Bryan Adams.

Introducing Robinus Longstridus, son of a murdered father, archer in the army of a murdered king. He leads men into battle wielding an axe! He pontificates about freedom! (In an accent which, to these dead ears, lies somewhere between Jimmy Nesbitt and Jim Royle.)  He rises from the sea like Godzilla to fight off invading Frenchies! (Frenchies retreat insounciantly: 'Boeuf…')

At least, he does in the second half of this cut-and-shut of a movie. The first hour or so, which depict Robin's journey from the battlefields of France to rural Nottingham (not via Hadrian's Wall this time), take things rather more seriously. Like Kingdom of Heaven, it may even have a point to make about, you know, rich people and poor people and tax and stuff.

But the point gets lost in the post when, in a plot twist more worthy of A Knight's Tale, humble archer Robin Longstride assumes the identity of Robin Loxley, son of Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) then takes it upon himself to save the world (or not-so-merrie England anyway), get the girl (Cate Blanchett, whose laudable efforts to mould a strong female character are completely undercut when she ends up in armour, in peril, and in our hero's meaty arms), then retire to live outlawfully ever after in the Greenwood, free from the stresses and strains of modern Medieval life (taxes, wars and grovelling in the mud). Robin Hood Begins, in fact: the story we all recognise is yet to come.

Even the poor Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) is denied his usual star turn, replaced instead by Hollywood's current bad guy of choice, Mark 'Burn 'em, burn 'em all' Strong as Godfrey. (Godfrey of Somewhere? Apparently not, just Godfrey. Like Prince. Odd.)

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Mark Addy as Friar TuckLike, well, most Hollywood films, the plot plays merry hell with English history (Robin Hood was a legend, King John and the Magna Carter kinda weren't), the period detail is riddled with anachronisms (the 'beer tent at a re-enactment' scenes are only missing a cluster of Vikings at the bar and of course Robin has to wear leather trousers) and it's simply too darned long.

But on the other hand, it's a bold, completely fresh take on a subject that 's been done to death, the battle scenes are directed with the scale, flair and ferocity you'd expect from Ridley Scott, it's actually surprisingly funny in places (not always intentionally so) and Mark Addy makes a splendid Friar Tuck, much better than Mike McShane, who you'd have thought was born for the role. Oh, and there are some nice dogs in it. And no Kevin Costner. (Me? Damn with faint praise? Never!)

But for a Ridley Scott film it's pretty disappointing: neither epic drama nor all-out battle blockbuster, it somehow fails to hit the target. Close, but no golden arrow…

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