REVIEW: Ugly, Interminable Robin Hood Steals From Audiences

Movieline Score:

In days of yore, the myth of Robin Hood was embodied by brave and noble men: Douglas Fairbanks outwitting the king's thugs by sliding down the length of a slippery medieval brocade curtain; Errol Flynn striding jauntily into a great hall with a dead stag draped around his shoulders like a royal's stole. But, as Ridley Scott's Robin Hood suggests, those are heroes from a lost age. Today's Robin Hood is far more complex, a tortured soul suffering from repressed-memory syndrome, a freedom fighter whose perpetual scowl speaks of a highly attuned sense of justice. Today's Robin Hood is the spirit of freedom disguised as a grumpy gus in a leather jerkin, and he carries something far heavier than legend -- or even Errol Flynn's stag carcass -- on his shoulders: a backstory.

No wonder Russell Crowe, who plays the renowned bandit hero in Scott's big fat mess of an epic, looks so cranky and numbed-out. Robin Hood isn't merely misguided, or overly ambitious, or excessively laden with special effects. Its problems are much bigger than that: The picture is simply oppressive in its blandness, a lumbering symbol of everything that's wrong with big-budget moviemaking these days. Reportedly, Scott may have spent as much as $237 million on this dreary parade float of a movie, but why quibble about the actual amount? The real outrage is that the dollar signs don't even show. Cinematographer John Mathieson, using a palette of dank mud greens and grays, seems to be going for kitchen-sink medievalism, and in the process gives us the ugliest England imaginable, a country hardly worth saving. The picture's numerous battle sequences are cluttered and imprecise, but worse than that, they're just plain ugly -- their most exciting visual elements are flying mud and a jumble of horses' hooves. And the story -- set in the days before Robin Hood started robbing from the rich and giving to the poor -- is all mechanics and no drama. Brian Helgeland's screenplay (from a story by Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, and Cyrus Voris) is needlessly complicated. The filmmakers obviously think murkiness and unnecessary digressions are the same as depth.

There's a lot going on in this Robin Hood, so much that not even the guys in Universal's press department can figure it out. The movie's tagline is "The untold story of how a man became a legend." Apparently, the story still hasn't been told to the poor schmoe who wrote the synopsis in movie's press notes, which reads in part, "Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff."

That's actually the plot of the Errol Flynn version. In this Robin Hood, Robin's gang is assembled long before he gets to Marion's village: The movie opens as Danny Huston's King Richard the Lionheart is busy waging war against the infidels abroad -- leading the Crusades, don'tcha know -- with the then-named Robin Longstride as one of his loyal soldiers. Robin gets involved in a scuffle -- he angers a hotheaded fellow soldier by duping him with a variation on ye olde three carde monte -- and is put into the stocks, escaping (with the guys who will become the core of his not-so-merry men, a faceless bunch including Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand) when King Richard is killed. Robin returns to England, disguised as dead knight Robert Loxley, and eventually makes his way to Nottingham, where he's greeted warmly by the dead knight's father, Sir Walter Loxley (a creaky Max von Sydow), who happened to know Robin's real-life father, the man whom Robin believes abandoned him many years ago.

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  • sweetbiscuit says:

    Crowe and Blanchett have no chemistry? How can that be? They're both straight! :/

  • TurdBlossom says:


  • Tommy Marx says:

    Wow. The movie looked horrendous to begin with - let's be serious, at this point in time, does anyone actually say something like "I want to see the new Russell Crowe movie" - but this review seems to support every negative feeling I had about the film. Then again, I thought "Gladiator" was pretty stupid, so I'm not the best judge. But when I heard they were making a "prequel" of sorts to the Robin Hood story, my first and only reaction was, yeah, I really want to see a movie about a guy before he became interesting.

  • casting couch says:

    You'd think a Ridley Scott-filmed Robin Hood would at least be beautiful to look at. What a waste of time and money.

  • Lou Diggs says:

    You can just look at the trailer and tell its gonna be a stupid movie.

  • Maradeur says:

    It's inexplicably sad to witness the disgraceful sellout of the true director, who, having all the money and fame majority of other filmmakers can only dream about, made the conscious decision to cheat the trust of the auditorium and set cynical moneyraking as priority for his activity. 230 mln budget – how come the movie looks like the last wornout episode of Xena – the warrior princess ??? Scott brothers have always had a knack for breathtaking visuals – what happened this time ? I’m not even talking of story – pathetic dialogs trying to mask the absence of fabula whatsoever. Any screenwriting student could’ve come up with better choices.
    Anyways, Ridley Scott should be wary of IRS now – you can’t fool these guys, who will be interested how this awfully looking, bland, storyless video with no music and theme could cost 230 mln dollars.
    What’s worse is that the majority of the press is singing praises, trying to mask the fact that the king is naked, therefore degrading the filmgoer to mindless consumant of cinematic fastfood.
    Sad, so sad…

  • zazou says:

    I do believe many film reviewers watched this film with preconceived notions of what it should be,a technicolor fairy tale,a fun-filled romp through the 12th century, well they didn't get that and someone has to pay! Crowe's Robin is a yeoman, a regular guy , God forbid.All that criticism about dourness is ridiculous. This Robin is a good man,looking to start again after being away from England for years. He is attracted to Marian and she to him.All film criticism is just subjective interpretation articulated by person x.So in the final analysis what matters most here is if I liked the film and found it worthy. I found it most worthy.

  • Simon Swain says:

    For me the key point of interest in this film was Russell Crowe's accent, which wanders erratically between Northern England, North-East England and Northern Ireland (often within a single sentence).

  • Oh please says:

    Robin Hood is set in the Middle Ages (11th century).
    He is NOT supposed to be MIDDLE AGED!!!!!
    Crowe is a haggard old guy with a paunch.
    Sorry dude, no matter how talented you are as an actor, you have to LOOK the part.

  • marvin nubwaxer says:

    exactly. just a D-U-D

  • Trace says:

    I haven't seen it, but there's NO WAY it could be worse than Kevin Costner's version. I refuse to believe that!

  • Optimus says:

    The movie sucked.. Plane and simple. It's always the same old story with Russel Crow, no acting, no style, just droopy eyes and a loud voice when the need arises. Probably his only good movie was Gladiator, even though Joaquin Phoenix carried him the whole time..

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