Review – Stealing from the Rich-er Movies (“Robin Hood”)

Yeah, I know, ANOTHER Robin Hood movie? There’s been, what, 137 of them so far? Well, here’s an idea: what if you combined the story elements of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Batman, Zorro, and bits of V For Vendetta? You’d get this unusual and entertaining movie from a first-time director and two first-time screenwriters.

First off, forget what you’ve seen in all the previous Robin Hood movies. This one ain’t got no Sherwood Forest, no Merry Men, no Prince John, no King Richard, and the people wear mostly modern leather costumes that look like they got them from Wilson’s House of Suede in Hollywood. This ain’t your mamma’s Robin Hood, that’s for sure! It’s still kinda-sorta Medieval Times, but this bustling Nottingham City is gigantic and boasts a huge population. I think I even spied a Starbucks in there somewhere.

Anyway, the spoiled & rich aristocratic Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) has just come back home after being drafted into the Arabian wars and, after four years, has seen hell. Having been declared dead, his luxurious digs have been decimated, his lands forfeited, and all his money seized by the power-mad Sheriff (Ben Mendleson using his effective growl like he did in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Looks like the Sheriff is gobbing up all the coin he can for the equally power-mad Arch Deacon (Ian Peck) of the all-powerful church in town. Their plan? Pay the super-important Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) his blood money to take control of Nottingham away from the never-seen King.

Meanwhile, Robin meets up with an old Arabian enemy he calls John (Jamie Foxx) who trains Robin (in your A-typical montage) against the injustice and tyranny they see all around them. Disguising himself with a hoodie like Oliver Queen (I guess he watched the CW’s Arrow TV show), Robin starts his ‘stealing from the rich to give to the poor’ esca-pades. He also meets up with his old love, Marian (Eve Hewson), who has unfortunately moved on to another hottie, Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan), who is the working-class people’s spokesman.

Just like in The Mask of Zorro, Robin ingratiates himself into the Sheriff’s inner circle as a smug rich-kid to get information, while dressing up and thwarting the man by night. Incest by the people rising up and Robin’s thievery, the Sheriff hires Guy of Gisborne (Paul Anderson) to kill the Hood. This screenplay sure is quirky enough, thanks to Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, both brand-new writers with their first-ever screenplay. They obviously borrowed elements from other movies, turning this Robin Hood into a superhero which, when come to think of it, isn’t too far removed from the truth. Uh, Green Arrow? Hawkeye, anyone?

Another newbie here is director Otto Bathurst making his theatrical debut. From only doing BBC-TV shows like Criminal Justice and Black Mirror, this guy didn’t hold back from his first motion picture. His whiz-bang camera work is fast, solid, and imaginative. Check out the horse chase and stunt-work in act two; it’s outrageous! There have been really excellent Robin Hood movies (1938-The Adventures of Robin Hood), really awful ones, (Robin Hood-2010 version with Russell Crowe), and hilarious ones (Robin Hood: Men In Tights), but this one treads the needle with being so very different in its scope, its adventurous & clever nature, and being a whole lotta fun.

Egerton and Foxx make a perfect team (better than Costner and Freeman), like a Zorro and Don Diego DeLaVega, and even though the plot elements are clearly stolen from other movies, they are put to use here in a manner that is exciting, fun, and done with some dollops of humor. I wasn’t even bothered with Robin turning into a super-archer that can give the Green Arrow a run for his money; Egerton is charismatic to pull it off. Mendleson is, well, Mendleson. The man always plays the villain, so he’s perfect here. Sadly, Hewson isn’t given her dues as more than Robin’s love interest, but Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck manages to steal every scene he’s in, so kudos to him.       

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)


A movie about an English nobleman who has no trace of an accent? Sure, why not? In this lively Kevin & Kevin movie (that’s Costner & Reynolds, BTW), it’s yet another  retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale, but with a twist; Robin has a Moorish BFF to aid and abet his adventures in Sherwood Forest. #MoorishLivesMatter

We start off with Robin of Locksley (Costner) who’s imprisoned in Jerusalem during those nasty Crusades. After an act of sheer bravery, Robin escapes and takes with him a fierce Moorish warrior named Azeem (Morgan Freeman) back to England, only to find his father dead and his land gone. Damn! Making due on a promise, Robin swears to protect Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the heir to King Richard (Sean Connery in a brief cameo). But he runs afoul of Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott), the cousin of the truly evil Sheriff of Nottingham (the ridiculously perfect Alan Rickman).

Seeking justice and revenge for his dad, Robin goes rogue and enlists a rag-tag army of oppressed villagers to join him in the forest. His loyal servants are large Little John (Nick Brimble), Wulf (Daniel Newman), tipsy beer loving Friar Tuck (Mike McShane), and a questionable Will Scarlett (Christian Slater), who holds a grudge against Robin. Soon these ‘merry men’ are plundering and pillaging the king’s men and (say it with me) ‘stealing from the rich to give to the poor’. This infuriates the Sheriff who calls upon his personal witch (Geraldine McEwan) for advice… which happens to be hiring Irish thugs as extra swords.

But even as battles are fought and lost, Robin and Marian still manage to hook up and fall in love, right under the nose of the Sheriff who wants her for himself. Things go south as some of Robin’s men are captured and, in a daring third act fight, it’s Azeem (not Robin) that gives a victory speech to rouse the troops to attack the Sheriff. There’s sword fights, explosions, funny gags and moments, and Jack Wild (from Oliver! & H.R. Pufnstuf fame) in his final film role. The fun and adventurous screenplay by Pen Densham  and John Watson is made better by the whip-smart direction of Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo).

Even with everyone poo-poo-ing Costner’s lack of an English accent, you can’t deny this movie’s charisma and charm. It has a certain quality to it, what with it’s strong produc-tion values, set designs, outstanding cinematography, casting, and can we talk about Alan Rickman? His performance alone is worth watching this movie. Ten years before he’d make Professor Snape his iconic character, his over-the-top Sheriff persona solidified him as an actor to be watched. His speech about “cancelling Christmas” is LOL wonderful.

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