Film review: ‘ROBIN HOOD’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed”

There’s a new movie version of Robin Hood about every 20 years and after the Errol Flynn classic they’ve become progressively sillier. Perhaps we’ve hit the nadir because it’s hard to imagine a version (Mel Brooks deliberately silly Robin Hood: Men in Tights aside) being more ridiculous than the latest one simply entitled Robin Hood. This film, from director Otto Bathurst (who’s best know for his TV work) is of the Michael Bay/ Guy Richie school of hyperkinetic, throw out your brain, live action cartoon cinema which will be a fun prospect for some viewers and cinematic hell for others.

In what appears to be an attempt to concoct a superhero-style franchise, this is film is essentially an origin story for the Robin Hood character. Here Lord Robin Loxley (Taron Egerton) is plucked from his cushy life wearing unbuttoned puffy shirts and seducing Maid Marion (Eve Hewson) to fight in the crusades in the Holy Land. Upon returning, he discovers his estate has been seized and Marion has taken up with local activist Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan). More pressing is the fact that the nasty Sherriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) is fleecing the peasants to fund the war. Aided by former foe, the Moor, John (Jamie Foxx), Robin transforms into the ninja-like ‘Hood’ who swipes the Sherriff’s gold and distributes it among the poor.

Director Bathurst has tried to make the Robin Hood legend more relevant by updating the story with contemporary references. Take away the bows and arrows and his depiction of the English crusaders in Arabia looks like present day soldiers in the Iraq war. The attempt to make the film topical might have worked had the writing prosecuted political issues with any depth as opposed to a fleeting reference. Eventually, the modernising becomes cringeworthy as the film includes outrageous anachronisms such as house music playing at a feast.

The film attempts to critique the church placing it at the centre of corruption and portraying the Cardinal (F Murray Abraham) as more despicable than the Sherriff of Nottingham. Again, however, what could have been potent issues of church and state aren’t investigated with any depth.

Admittedly, this isn’t a sociological drama, it’s mainly about Robin Hood kicking butt. The film is peppered with vigorous but irritatingly implausible and confusing action sequences. Clearly, these have been influenced by video games with the flow of action, the character’s apparent indestructibility and Robin Hood’s attire recalling something like Assassins Creed. Hilariously, the film also includes a ridiculous homoerotic training montage plucked straight from a Rocky movie as John transforms Robin into a chiselled killing machine.

This is a violent film but apparently the filmmakers didn’t want it to be too dark so, even though Robin kills a swathe of underpaid henchman, to avoid making him look like a brutal mass-murderer, the guards are all dehumanised by wearing full-face helmets. Also, in the tradition of lunk-headed action films the enemy guards are completely incompetent and can’t shoot straight.

Taron Egerton is amiable enough but not exactly charismatic or convincing as a hero of the people. With his flawless complexion and 21st century hairdo, he looks more like a member of One Direction than a rugged 12th century freedom fighter and war vet.

Ben Mendelssohn has become the go-to guy for villainous authority figures with his reasonably entertaining turns as a corporate meanie in Ready Player One and a pompous Imperial officer in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In a flagrant attempt to align his Sherriff of Nottingham with a Nazi here, he’s dressed in what can only be described as Gestapo chic. He chews the scenery like Augustus Gloop at an all you can eat buffet making him a bit too comical and suggesting he would have been better off in a romp like The Princess Bride.

The rest of the cast do what they can with their cartoonish roles: Eve Hewson’s a feisty heroine as Marion and Jamie Foxx shouty but engaging as the Mr Miyagi figure John although the attempted comedy relief casting of Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck doesn’t work.

Robin Hood is junk food cinema that requires a suspension of most intellectual faculties and the best that can be said is it’s not completely objectionable.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Action/Adventure.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Otto Bathurst.

Release date: 22nd Nov 2018.

Running time: 116 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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