Russell Crowe sports his Gladiator haircut once again for director Ridley Scott in Robin Hood, a disastrously boring, aimless and dour take on the infamous archer. This one has a lot in common with Scott’s equally dreadful Kingdom of Heaven, which also managed to spend a lot of money on an epic scale production while failing to assemble a script that could keep viewers awake.
Rather than taking the legendary character and giving him some rousing adventures, Scott and company opt for the origin story, and it turns out that Robin Hood’s origins are about as interesting as a can of green beans.
Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a soldier in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). Robin is dissatisfied with the reckless King and his plundering ways, and we know this because Crowe plays him with an eternal sourpuss, as if he’d rather be playing golf than toiling for Scott in his latest folly.
This leads to that, and Robin exits the army with his band of merry men, who quite literally are a band. They bust out the mandolin and sing like idiots whenever they can, especially when alcohol is involved, sort of like a 13th century version of Pearl Jam. I was pulling for a sweet mandolin and mead-fueled version of “Even Flow” but, alas, no luck.
Robin eventually winds up in Nottingham on the farm of Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow), where he masquerades as Loxley’s dead son Robert, husband to his widowed daughter, Marion (Cate Blanchett, slumming in a role many fathoms beneath her). This one goes down as the dopiest plot development of the year thus far because Loxley is the one who requests Robin pretend to be his daughter’s husband. That’s a pretty dick move for a dad.
As we later find out, the blind Loxley remembers Robin as a child and recalls how super cool and brave Robin’s dad was. This resolves a lot of Robin’s daddy issues. Robin gets all empowered, decides to help the English battle the French, and shoots a couple of arrows at people so we don’t forget he’s actually Robin Hood. For a while there, I just thought he was Maximus lounging around in Nottingham after his favorite pet had died.
Mark Strong plays the bad guy—yet again—as Godfrey, a crooked lawman in league with the evil French. He pursues Robin with great fervor, sporting a strange scar on his face courtesy of Robin’s arrow. I guess the arrow grazed his lower cheek, which I think would’ve created more of a scratch or burn rather than ripping his face a little bit by the corner of his lip. If he had actually gotten shot in the face, it would’ve caused some serious internal mouth damage, with more of a facial hole than a tear. Yes, these are the things that occupied my mind while enduring this slop.
The original idea for this film was to have Crowe playing both the roles of Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham. I’m not sure why anybody would want to do something like that, or how they would’ve done it, but at least it would’ve been something a little different and beyond the blandness of this finished product. Rewrites actually occurred during filming, which could account for the thrown-together feel of some scenes.
In the history of Robin Hood films, I would actually rate this one below the stupid Disney cartoon and even the Kevin Costner effort. At least the Costner film had Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham and a memorable Bryan Adams song. All this one has is Russell Crowe in some sort of malaise, strolling around in period garb, barely even picking up his bow and arrow. His glory days with Ridley Scott are behind him.