The story of the thief who robbed from the rich to give to the poor, aka Robin Hood, has been around for centuries, literally. In film form, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland continued the legend in 1938, and since that date, there have been a myriad number of pastiches keeping the legend alive for kids and adults alike.
Even Ridley Scott jumped on the bandwagon with his version starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood, but alas, this was not the last, as co-writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly give director Otto Bathurst a chance to recreate the origins of the tale, starring Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”) and Jamie Foxx (“Baby Driver”).
In the beginning of the film, the narrator advises us to forget history and all we thought we knew about the legend of Robin Hood. We need to understand it is a “... story of a thief, but not a thief that you know.”
This version introduces us to the handsome, wealthy, and charismatic Lord Robin Loxley (Egerton), who has fallen madly in love with a woman, Marian (Eve Hewson), whose initial intent was to rob him. Quickly, the two are enveloped in a passionate affair, but the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) puts a kibosh on that, sending a draft notice to Lord Loxley. As he departs for Arabia, he asks his love to wait for him.
You know that’s a red flag right there. He fights the Arabs for four years, and we get a glimpse into the fine, upstanding man that Loxley is as his morals and virtue shine through in an attempt to save a man’s son. Meeting this man, John (Foxx), sets the course of their futures (and the legend) into motion.
Returning to England to a ravaged home, Loxley finds Marian in another man’s arms and the commoners being taxed by the sheriff to finance an illicit war. John and Loxley devise a plan to seek revenge, right a wrong and get Marian back. Their plan, of course, includes stealing from the corrupt government and church and returning the riches to the rightful owners to reveal the head of all this evilness.
The story begins as a rather heated love story, but quickly devolves into a war-torn story of brutality and ugliness, the Brits fighting against the Arabs, depicting the true hearts of men at war. The non-stop fighting continues in England, but there is a reprieve as Loxley is trained by the one-handed John. Arrows then begin to fly, and the sheriff’s soldiers fall swiftly as “The Hood” and John rob the toll stations and church coffers.
This version of “Robin Hood” overtly sets up the good versus evil with no shades of grey in any of its characters, particularly with the sheriff’s attributes reminiscent of Hitler and Robin Hood completely pure and virtuous. There are also political parallels drawn in many of the situations, and the film makes no bones about the ethics of the Catholic Church’s role in this film.
Unfortunately, what started out as an interesting back story to this renowned hero becomes nothing more than an exercise in special effects and stunt work by horses and computer graphic artists.
The cast gives it their best, but with a script that slowly slips down the slope of silliness, there’s not much an actor can do. All of the characters are one-dimensional cutouts of men and women in a dark and violent time.
Mendelsohn is the epitome of “a bad guy,” and we even get to hear his abusive upbringing in the orphanage, obviously resulting in his evil ways. I almost expected to hear him laugh demonically from his high tower.
Thanks to Tim Minchin’s character of Friar Tuck, there is a bit of humor; unfortunately, he wasn’t given enough freedom in this role to truly have fun, which means we, the viewers, don’t either. Foxx, a known entity for creating humor in any situation, is limited to a couple one-liners. However, I will admit that his fashion humor is not lost on me.
Egerton’s athleticism, which we have seen in all the “Kingsman” films, returns as he shoots arrows while jumping, but it is his lack of blood loss that is truly quizzical.
He gets a few arrows to parts of the body that would ordinarily kill a man (and did in many of the scenes), but the wound seems nothing more than a bothersome hangnail torn off.
Thankfully, Egerton has those leading man qualities and aptly fills the shoes of Robin Hood, or “The Hood,” but even he seems a bit uncomfortable and confused in a few scenes.
“Robin Hood” misses the mark in this rendition, even when the target should be, by this time, shining like a neon sign and as big as the Empire State Building. With a plummeting love story, missed opportunities to address race and war and superficial characters, all you’re left with is a film to feature special effects, stunts and set design. It is in these areas that the film shines, even if it directly imitates that Guy Ritchie slow-motion fighting.
With such potential to explore who Robin Hood is as well as his merry band of thieves, the film focuses so much on fighting it forgets that it’s supposed to tell a story.