Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 14, 2010 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are back together to try and breathe new life into a Britush legend born around the turn of the 13th Century. Obviously quite a far cry from Kevin Costner/Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio/Alan Rickman actioner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
A sometimes intense, yet unbalanced Robin Hood stars Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, and Max von Sydow.
An expert archer, Sir Robin Longstride, Earl of Huntington (Crowe), has returned to his northern English hamlet after fighting in the Third Crusade under King Richard The Lionheart (Danny Huston). Upon arrival, this nobleman and his servant witness the oppression caused by the new Sheriff of Nottingham (an underutilized Matthew Macfadyen).
In this "origin" epic-sized tale interpreted by Crowe and writer Brian Helgeland (writer of Green Zone and director of the fun A Knight's Tale), the regal Richard is downed during an early battle as Sir Robin goes on a path away from self-preservation. He'll use his military know-how and intellect to free his home village from a corruptive, tyrannical process by getting back what actually is his, and getting back what is actually others much lower on the indulgence scale. In essence, making England abreast when it comes to peace and justice.
Within an overworked storyline that isn't filled with the desired working-class luster, Sir Robin is entrusted to hand over the sword of a dying soldier Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) to his blind father Sir Walter (heartfeltly done by the Dane Sydow) in Nottingham. Robin and his rakish band find the chance to return King Richard's sovereignty to England's new ducat, a sympathetically jejune Oscar Isaac.
What Robin has been good at, impersonating Sir Walter's son to stay at a distance from military reprimand, must continue at the aging father's request by acting as the spouse to one Lady Marion, a spirited Blanchett. Ultimately, he must win the affection of this recent widow while leading his "Merry Man" of "Sherwood Forest" to fairness and victory, while making sure the elder Loxley doesn't lose his cherished manor.
Scott given this action spectacle plenty of detail on a visual palette with its grayish brown look similar to the more glorious Gladiator along with a fair amount of emoting as Crowe's Robin emerges as a particularly steely somber figure when it comes to equality and family. The presence of Blanchett is a nice relief from the clutter of medieval politics, but the Robin/Marion relationship never reaches the depth one hopes it would. A dignified William Hurt as William Marshal and Mark Strong (Kick-Ass) as the malevolently insidious Godfrey on the French side and Mark Addy as Friar Tuck add some noteworthy support within astute logistical filmmaking with plenty of arrows, hot oil and muddy swords to make for a well-regarded action-adventure and robust historical biopic.
Yet, this new altruistic Robin Hood which hits its stride when it comes to facing off against brutal Norman invaders is more bogged down in its stylized idealism while struggling to soar under the inscripted notion "rise and rise again until lambs become lions."