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Robbing the Viewers to Entertain No One

Movie Title: Robin Hood (2010)
Spoilers: none

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I'm watching an impressive Russell Crowe in Robin Hood and I'm seeing stones thrown over the top of castle walls. I'm hearing shouting in battle, seeing arrows fly, anointed in fire oil and shot off to reach their targets under mostly cloudy skies. I'm seeing a well-poised Crowe in convincing garb and a semi-Gladiatorial role that suits him. Less awesomely, I'm seeing mysterious men in masks, running townspeople, and the hasty introduction of characters we are supposed to come to know (I'm just wondering when).

Hurried sessions of dialogue are spoken in hushed tones. Crowe's odd Irish accent amidst English ones stands out. It doesn't take long to occur to me that I'm not sure what exactly I'm watching. It's supposed to be Robin Hood.

Crowe's Robin Hood is never shown strategizing or planning, or looking for unfound confidence, and yet he leads troops triumphantly into battle with the charisma of a runner-up to Alexander the Great. He is an open book. He says what he needs to say, but never rambles or elaborates in a surplus. His ability to win over large crowds with his rhetoric is impressive, but without the sub-story of his childhood trauma that involved his father, we wouldn't get to see any other than a romantic side to him.

In this Robin Hood, it's that way with everyone—we don't get to learn about or get close to anyone in particular. The only exceptions are Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett), Prince John (Oscar Isaac), Prince John's wise-but-repudiated mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Aileen Atkins), and a diplomatically seasoned William Marshall (William Hurt).

This is an uninspiring letdown of a Robin Hood. With a big story but little heart, it offers a steady stream of dignified background music that doesn't ride with this long and cyclically boring 131 minutes of battles and cut-short character development. There are some big and bloody fights, but those are flip-side to men celebrating and old men talking, to love brewing, and more old men talking, followed by more battles and local conflicts.

Crowe is a determined charmer and a purposely gaunt-looking Blanchett offers up a cage-rattling performance, with resplendent chemistry emanating between the two. The nonsensically small and unrecognizable role of Little John (Kevin Durand) is one in a string of disappoints. Mark Addy as Friar Tuck is a cooked-up character that you never come to fully understand, much less like. Frankly, there's not much to like here, and it pains me to say that of what has proved to be such a beloved legend.

Ridley Scott, the man who brought us Gladiator now brings us Robin Hood - a film that falls way short of his earlier work, but goes so far as wanting to be reminiscent of 300 - with flying arrows and artistically woven shots of mortal wounds and fatalities. What could have made average combat scenes or the cooler of kill blows are knocked down a notch due to below par camera work that is as upsetting as Eastwood's sloppily crafted Invictus (2009).

The film's great length and unsteadily slow pacing make it somewhat of an ordeal to watch, even for one who takes interest in the old English Folklore. Tales of Robin Hood always have him robbing the rich to feed the poor, but this bore only robs the viewers of entertainment.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Ridley Scott
Summary: The story of an archer in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion who fights against the Norman invaders and becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.
Starring: Russell Crowe "Robin Longstride," Cate Blanchett "Marion Loxley," Kevin Durand "Little John," Max von Sydow "Sir Walter Loxley," William Hurt "William Marshal," Mark Strong "Godfrey," Oscar Isaac "Prince John," Danny Huston "King Richard The Lionheart," Eileen Atkins "Eleanor of Aquitaine," Mark Addy "Friar Tuck," Matthew Macfadyen "Sheriff of Nottingham"
Genre: Action / Drama
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