Review: Robin Hood

(M) **

Director: Ridley Scott.

Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston.

A MORE accurate title for this film might have been The Man Who Would Become Robin Hood, or even Robin Hood: The Prequel.

Those expecting a typical Robin Hood adventure, featuring the man in tights living in Sherwood Forest with his merry men, taking from the rich to give to the poor, riding through the glen, battling wits with the Sheriff of Nottingham - all that stuff - will be sorely disappointed.

Instead we get an ungainly amalgam of Gladiator and Braveheart (with a dash of The Wife Of Martin Guerre) that ends where the Robin Hood story traditionally begins - there's even a title card at the film's finale that says so.

Robin Hood is Robin Longstride here, a soldier in King Richard The Lionheart's army, which is plundering and sacking its way home after the crusades.

After falling afoul of the king, Robin and his men (Allan A'Dayle, Little John and Will Scarlet) decide to head for home, but find themselves impersonating a royal envoy that is bound for England to deliver the sad news that the king has been killed in battle.

From there, Robin and co set up shop in Nottingham, where our hero meets Marian Locksley - whose husband Robin is impersonating - and our heroes soon become embroiled in a conspiracy to bring about a French invasion of England.

For the most part, the film works really well. Crowe is a good Hood, Blanchett is a superb Maid Marian, and the battle scenes are as good as you would expect from the man behind Gladiator.

There is also a deft comedic touch in the right places - Robin's merry men and Mark Addy as Friar Tuck make sure of that - and the gentle laughs are spaced well between the sword-swinging.

So why is this only a two-star film? The problem lies in the bigger story around Robin, which attempts to make him into a Middle Ages Martin Luther King rather than the cheeky philanthropist of the old tales. Robin Hood gets bogged down repeatedly in its exploration of 12th century socio-politics, international relations and medieval English finance which adds great context at first, but soon becomes a millstone around the movie's neck as Robin is forced to become a William Wallace-style character, uniting the feuding noblemen behind a cranky king to fend off the French.

Even this would have been forgivable if not for the ending, which pushes all the wrong buttons in its attempt to be an iconic grand finale and effectively undoes much of the movie's good work.

With its cast of thousands and impressive sets, Robin Hood looks great but this is not the gritty re-imagining of the Merry Men that many had hoped for - in fact, it hardly even counts as a Robin Hood film.

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