“ROBIN HOOD” — 2 stars — Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan; PG-13 (extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references); in general release; running time: 116 minutes
The latest take on “Robin Hood” is a loud, melodramatic mess slathered in a thin veneer of 21st-century politics.
As director Otto Bathurst’s effort opens, a voice-over suggests we dispense with any preconceived notions of the legendary hero. There are probably a few other things we should let go of, too.
The Robin (Taron Egerton) of Loxley we meet early on is living the comfortable life of an English nobleman alongside the love of his life, Marian (Eve Hewson). But the good life quickly comes crashing down as Robin is drafted away to Arabia to fight in the Third Crusade.
Four years later, an embittered and embattled Robin returns home to find his manor in ruins and his love in the arms of another man. In order to fund the war effort, the devious Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) has hammered the community with excessive taxation, and after a false report of Robin’s death, Marian has started over with a local politician named Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), who is trying to build support among the commoners.
His former life destroyed, Robin finds purpose through Little John (Jamie Foxx), an Arabian prisoner he met during the crusade who has come to England in search of justice. One Rocky-meets-the-Middle-Ages training montage later, the pair is ready to take on corrupt government, religious hypocrisy and the full power of a Hollywood special effects team.
The film seems to follow the “Spinal Tap” philosophy of turning everything up to 11, presumably to cover up for “Robin Hood’s” various shortcomings. There’s a wealth of action and pyrotechnics, but all the mayhem seems only loosely connected to a plot or story, and the strategy seems to be targeting audiences with extremely short attention spans.
There’s a place for bombastic, over-the-top popcorn movies that don’t take themselves too seriously (see the “Fast and Furious” series). But “Robin Hood’s” humor isn’t quite funny enough and its serious content isn’t quite serious enough. Throw in lazy, pseudo-meaningful dialogue like, “this isn’t going to end well” and, “you’re only powerless if you believe you’re powerless,” and the final product is more likely to draw eye rolls than wows.
As the sheriff, Mendelsohn seems determined to set some kind of record for high-volume, spit-spewing scenery chewing, and the addition of F. Murray Abraham as a corrupt and conspiring cardinal only adds another two-dimensional cartoon to the bad guy team.
The battle between style and substance is pretty one-sided, and the convoluted story is laden with vague political allusions — the commoner rebels, dressed suspiciously like Antifa protestors, are quick to embrace Robin’s call for redistribution of wealth. The whole thing feels like another tactless attempt to retrofit a classic story through a half-cocked contemporary lens.
“Robin Hood” isn’t anything close to the best “Robin Hood” film — but it’s probably the loudest. “Turn off your brain” movies should really be more fun.
Rating explained:"Robin Hood" is a strong PG-13, with wall-to-wall action violence (more loud than graphic), some scattered profanity and mild sexuality (mainly low-cut dresses).