Robin Hood
dir Ridley Scott
scr Brian Helgeland
prd Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott
with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Oscar Isaac, Eileen Atkins, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Addy, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle
release UK 12.May.10, US 14.May.10
10/UK Universal 2h20
Robin Hood
Back in the saddle: Crowe and Blanchett

strong von sydow hurt
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Robin Hood Ridley Scott and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar old English legend it into a robust, thumping epic. The pacing is a bit uneven, but it keeps us thoroughly engaged.

Robin Longstride (Crowe) fought alongside King Richard (Danny Huston) in the crusades but returned to England under shady circumstances with two of his archer buddies (Grimes and Doyle) and a beefy fighter (Durand). Heading to Nottingham to honour an oath, he meets Sir Walter (von Sydow) and his feisty daughter-in-law Marian (Blanchett), who are being squeezed out of their land by the Sheriff (Macfadyen). But there are bigger problems, as Godfrey (Strong) marauds through the country with an army of French goons, plotting to steal the country from the vain new King John (Isaac).

Every element is expertly crafted, from the gritty production design to the soaring cinematography. Whooshing arrows, brutal attacks and angry peasants are everywhere, and the digital recreation of 1199 London is impressive (even if the actors' wobbly accents aren't). Meanwhile, writer Helgeland weaves in issues from the 21st century, including financial difficulties, corrupt politicians and unjust tax burdens. And the battles play out on a massive scale, leading to a Spielbergian assault on a beach that has long since vanished from beneath the cliffs of Dover.

In between the action there's rather a lot of drama, from bickering in the Tower between the bratty new king and his patient mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (Atkins) to the tetchy countryside romance between Robin and Marian. Fortunately, these scenes are extremely well-played, with Blanchett delivering an especially strong turn as a woman far, far ahead of her time.

Meanwhile, Scott indulges in his usual refusal to allow for any shades of grey: people are either virtuous or vile, with little reason why. At least King John keeps us guessing; and after two other supervillain roles in six months (see SHERLOCK HOLMES and KICK-ASS), Strong has perfected his portrayal of pure evil and should really move on now. Sadly, there isn't nearly enough of Robin's merry men, who are lively and funny and presumably will have a lot more to do in the sequel. Yes, this tale finishes right where most Robin Hood movies start.

cert 12 themes, strong violence, innuendo 11.May.10

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