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ROBIN HOOD (2010)

SYNOPSIS:
At the turn of the 12th century in England, Richard the Lion Heart (Danny Huston), is returning from the Crusades but is killed in France, along with several of his knights. One of the King's best archers, Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) promises the dying Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) to deliver his sword to Robert's Father, Sir Walter Loxly (Max Von Sydow), in Nottingham. Back in England, Richard's pathetic brother Prince John (Oscar Isaac) begins to impose crippling new taxes with the help of the sinister Godfrey (Mark Strong) against the advice of his chancellor, William Marshall (William Hurt). When Robin arrives in Nottingham, the Loxley estate is almost broke, despite the efforts of Lady Marion Loxly (Cate Blanchett), Sir Robert's young widow. The country is on the verge of civil war, and the French King (Jonathan Zaccai) is leading an invasion across the channel. Embraced by the Loxleys, Robin takes the place of Sir Robert and helps lead the fight against both King John and the French, and hopes to win the heart of Marion. But as the champion of a new charter setting down rights for the people, Robin is declared an outlaw by King John.

Review by Louise Keller:
Scale, spectacle and heart make Ridley Scott's Robin Hood a heart-pumping and satisfying tale, with Russell Crowe etching his initials on Robin's bow as surely as he left them on Maximus' sword in Gladiator. Never give up is the film's theme, as we are swept back in time to the 12th Century where treachery, greed and ambition swirl together like perilous quicksand. The battle scenes are impressive, the locations dramatic but neither can overshadow the film's central humanity of honesty and courage epitomised by Crowe's Robin Hood.

In the opening bloody battlefield sequence when King Richard the Lionheart asks Robin Longstride to answer honestly, even if it means revealing something the King would not want to hear, not only do we know the archer is brave, but shows he has the power of his own convictions. Nottingham, with its picturesque countryside, velvet green hills, thatched cottages, crystal streams and geese waddling down its dirt roads is where Robin's sense of honour leads him. Finding his destiny becomes his reward, which includes meeting Cate Blanchett's Lady Marion (the much anticipated screen union between Blanchett and Crowe); their strength of presence, chemistry and appeal is perfectly balanced. Robin and the feisty Marion's 'getting-to-know' each other is deliciously punctuated by humour and director Scott teases us by prolonging their antagonism, as Robin is invited into her bedchamber, a ruse for the benefit of their servants. The film's most emotionally potent scenes belong to Max von Sydow as Marion's elderly father-in-law, who may be physically blind, but clearly sees what is important.

Each cast member is hand picked. Special mention goes to Mark Strong, haunting as the two-faced bi-lingual Godfrey, who chooses to speak English or French to indicate his fractured loyalty. Oscar Isaac is suitably slimy as the cowardly Prince John with William Hurt and Danny Huston also effective. I like Mark Addy too, as the convivial bee-keeping Friar Tuck who has a taste for the alcoholic honey mead and the circumstances which prompt him to join Robin's band of men.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck as a herd of horses thundered along the clifftop ready for battle and I shivered as the fatal curtain of arrows falling through the sky hit their targets. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland manages to fascinate us with the historic elements, while simultaneously weaving into the fabric, a vibrant, human story that makes us relate and care for the characters. Every minute of the long running time holds; I didn't want the adventure to end. After all, this is a story that has not been told - how Robin Hood became a legend. A formidable film with the formidable Russell Crowe at perfect pitch, Robin Hood hits the bullseye.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
How did a Saxon archer in 13th century England become such a heroic figure as to spawn the legend of Robin Hood? Ridley Scott and writer Brian Helgeland, along with a vast army of cast and crew, have done their utmost to answer that question, visualising history and creating a plausible scenario. They have given cinema a new Robin Hood, thanks also to Russell Crowe's brooding, intense portrayal of a man thrust into the pages of history. Willingly, it must be said.

Cate Blanchett creates a powerful portrait of a proud, gutsy and resourceful Marion, whose no-nonsense shell hides a genuinely warm heart. Both leads delve deep into their characters for resonant and satisfying performances. Max Von Sydow is splendid as the blind patriarch of the Loxly family, a man of principle and understanding. He helps Robin reconcile his incomplete relationship with his father who died when he was just a boy.

This element echoes the Loxlys' father and son estrangement, and is one of the layers that makes the screenplay feel complete - and connects some plot points. Others include the treacherous world of the Royal Court, where Prince John (Oscar Isaac) takes a French mistress (Lea Seydoux) in favour of his wife, insolently defying his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins) from the love-nest bed. Court intrigue fills the political arena, which in the 13th century comprised either war or marriage to avoid it.

So don't expect a reworking of the Robin Hood escapades in Sherwood Forest, with Robin's happy go lucky gang picking off the rich as they make their way across the woods. This isn't that story. It's the making of man who became that legend, a natural leader with a destiny forged out of circumstances in a country torn by divided loyalties and poor leadership. It's Robin Hood 'Begins'. And what a beginning: the attention to detail is extraordinary, from the dialogue and the storyline to the myriad elements in production design, as the filmmakers create a convincing, raw, unjust and dangerous world - England as it might have been almost 1,000 years ago.

The formative Robin Hood gang is there, with Little John (Kevin Durand) most prominent, followed by Friar Tuck (Mark Addy), so we don't entirely lose our bearings. But now there is a framework for their coming together, and a snapshot into their characteristics.

The battle scenes are muddy and bloody, the artefacts of ancient warfare a fascinating study of man's ingenuity when it comes to killing machines, and the sounds of battle help make these scenes a visceral experience. Ridley Scott likes to paint on a large cinematic canvas, and he makes good use of all the tools at his command, from aerial views of armies - like the French landing on English shores - to the arrow-cam, sparingly used but to great effect.

Balancing these 'epic' aspects are the profoundly human issues that are woven through the story. How a young Robin saw his father and his world, how Kings are flawed and insecure and how valuable personal freedoms are, especially when threatened. This is the moral backbone of the story that is wrapped around the Robin Hood legend: Robin stood for something, something that was important to Englishmen, important enough to fight and die for.

By treating their story as a serious historic exploration of the Robin Hood legend, the filmmakers are able to ground it in issues and themes that give the film a purpose. That doesn't mean it's heavy; it's still a product of the Hollywood movie factory and it's still a ripping adventure, but now the legend makes sense and the adventure is memorable.
Published first in Sun-Herald

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ROBIN HOOD (2010) (TBA)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Kevin Durand, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Addy, Scott Grimes, Oscar Isaac, Eileen Atkins, Lea Seydoux, Bronson Webb, Robert Pugh, Alan Doyle, Jessica Reine, Jonathan Zaccai

PRODUCER: Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: Brian Helgeland (story by Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Mathieson

EDITOR: Pietro Scalia

MUSIC: Marc Stretenfeld

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arthur Max

RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 13, 2010







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