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robin hood
Robin Hood
Reviewer: Ricardo Barberini
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong







The adventures of Robin Hood have proven to be one of the most enduring tales of true chivalry ever.  Many stage plays, movies and TV series have been made about Robin of Loxley (Also known as Locksley) who was supposed to be a nobleman turned bandit to take from the rich and give to the poor! It is interesting to note that first Robin Hood motion picture was made in 1912. 

By now, almost everyone in the World knows who Robin Hood was.  Each story has been told with slightly different variation, in different countries, in different languages.

In this movie, unlike all the others, King Richard the Lion Heart is killed by a stray arrow at the beginning of the movie and his spiteful brother John becomes the new king.  In the legend and most movies, King Richard is still alive, but somewhere in Europe or the Holy Lands.

Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) returns to England from the crusades to deliver the sword of Sir Robert Loxley, who was killed in ambush in France, to his father Sir Walter who is a major landowner in Nottingham.  Sir Walter is old and blind, but he is shrewd enough to know that, in the absence of a male heir, after his death his land will pass to King John.  He persuades Robin to stay on and pretend to be his son and the husband of Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett).  Robin accepts and falls in love with Marion.

Meanwhile, King John who is mentally deranged and unstable (That, by the way, is the only reality in Robin Hood stories) decides to demand more taxes from his impoverished subjects and sends Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) with a small army to beat the northern Barons (big landowners) down and collect extra taxes.  Godfrey is actually a traitor and is in league with King Philip of France who is planning to invade England.

The Barons of England (the major landholders) and the peasants, rise up against King John.  The King, seeing the danger from France as his major threat, agrees to reforms if the Barons and the peasants join him in a battle to defeat the French invaders.

The Barons agree and with Robin Hood and William Marshall (William Hurt) the ex chancellor of England, in lead, defeat the French as they are landing.

Needless to say, the ungrateful king does not keep his promises. He refuses to sign the charter of human rights, declares Robin Hood an outlaw, and resumes his despotic ways.  Obviously, the producers are planning a sequel since the movie does not have a proper ending.

Practically, every nuance of Russell Crowe’s character is a repeat of his character in the Gladiator.  When it comes to historical dramas, he does not seem able to do anything fresh.  The facial expressions, the questioning eyes, and the gait, all are the same.  His best movie to-date remains “A Beautiful Mind” where he played the schizophrenic Noble Prize winning John Nash.  He truly deserved the Oscar for that movie not, his run-of- the-mill action adventure, the Gladiator.

Cate Blanchett is pretty as ever and delivers a passing performance.  It was good to see William Hurt again in a major movie.  He has been one the most underrated actors of modern time.

Oscar Isaac, as King John is the real treat in this movie.  The real king John was one of the most dreadful kings of England.  There is no doubt that he was mentally sick and most probably, he suffered from schizophrenia.  He had moments of lucidity, compassion and even courage and then he would suddenly descend into a deep depression. He was also a vicious man who killed his nephew to keep him from becoming a rival.  When he came to the throne, he was the master of a third of France in addition to being the king of England.  In the end he had lost all his French territories and was forced to accept the overlordship of the Pope to stay in power. For those of you who are curious, King Richard was actually killed by an arrow and the man who shot him was skinned alive.  In addition, most of the English nobility at that time were Normans and spoke French only.  English was the language of the peasants.

In all Robin Hood stories, starting with Claude Rains as Prince John in the 1938 Robin Hood movie starring Errol Flynn, Prince John has been played as a suave debonair villain.  In this movie, however, we see a more accurate picture of this mentally sick man. The bug-eyed Oscar Isaac plays the role with relish.

The cinematography and the music were up to par.  Most interesting was the recreation of the period.  The people in Middle Ages mostly lived in squalor.  This movie captures the essence of the times perfectly.  The floors are covered with straw with rats and mice running around uncontrolled.  Even the King’s throne is a wooden backed chair.  Nothing romantic about those centuries.

We give this movie starstarstar  Despite its shortcomings, it is a nice movie to watch and the direction of Ridley Scott is consistent with few lapses here and there.  Other than a fleeting sex scene at the very beginning, this movie is devoid of sexual contents and four letter words, so it should be a good family viewing.