Movie Review – Robin Hood (2018)
Films and TV shows about Robin Hood have been around for over 100 years, so there’s nothing really new that that this movie can really bring. Accepting that, this movie becomes all about how entertaining can this adventure be and does it put forth anything of interest. The film is decidedly entertaining in a Guy Ritchie kind of way. No, Ritchie didn’t direct this film. Otto Bathurst directed it, but it’s clear that he was perhaps inspired by that English filmmaker. Ritchie took an old property like Sherlock Holmes and enhanced it with modern-day, action techniques and styles. Bathurst does the same here. He takes the Robin Hood property and enhances it with modern-day action. Maybe I’m projecting but there feels like there are also some modern-day ideas or at least echoes of modern-day ideas here. It’s a British filmmaker grappling with a British, historical character, but, as an American, I couldn’t help but see and hear allusions to President Donald Trump.
Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up and Exodus: Gods and Kings) plays the Sheriff of Nottingham. Nottingham is a town in England that’s built near a mine and is a tight-knit, if slightly oppressed mining community. It’s odd because in the United States, a sheriff is a law-enforcement officer, a specific kind of police or cop, but in England, a sheriff at least as depicted here feels like a mayor or governor. At any rate, he seems to rule over Nottingham and some of the language he uses are akin to rhetoric uttered within the past two years by President Trump. The sheriff’s language isn’t unique to Trump, but certain ideas and phrases can’t be denied. The sheriff’s words are imbued with the same racism and xenophobia of which Trump has been accused.
However, if the Trump analogy doesn’t suit you, there are others as the sheriff is nothing but a two-faced, greedy and power-hungry politician. He works closely with the church to manipulate people and further grow power and wealth. He’s not at all remorseful or regrets the lives that are ruined or simply ended in pursuit of that goal. He’s truly megalomaniacal. He’s more cartoonish than anything else. He’s more akin to a comic book villain, though the late Stan Lee would probably argue that his villains had way more nuance than this one.
Mendelsohn’s character here is also reminiscent of his character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are scenes when the Sheriff is talking to the other megalomaniacal characters in the church with whom he’s scheming that felt very much like Mendelsohn’s scenes opposite the iconic Darth Vader. Mendelsohn was in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One earlier this year and his character in that film felt like his character here. Weirdly, his character here feels the least real, despite this character having the most deep-rooted history in English culture.
Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle and Kingsman: The Secret Service) stars as Robin of Loxley, a lord in the town of Nottingham. This seems to mean he has certain privileges like he owns his own property, a nice house, and he’s also entitled to certain voting rights with regard as to what the town will or won’t do. He falls in love with a woman who feels the need to steal his horse. That woman is Marian, played by Eve Hewson. He’s drafted into the army and has to fight in the Crusades. He comes back four years later to realize the sheriff has seized his home by declaring him dead.
Jamie Foxx (Ray and Django Unchained) co-stars as Little John, a Muslim Arab who fights back against soldiers like Robin during the Crusades. Little John is also a man of great faith, a faith, which is used against him in a very juicy scene, but the great thing about the film is that it doesn’t totally demonize the Muslim Arabs, or at least the film gives Foxx’s character space to change the initial perceptions through his interactions with Robin. We sympathize with this Muslim character in fact. Given that Foxx is the bigger star, it’s a wonder why his character wasn’t the lead.
Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey and A Private War) also co-stars as Will Scarlet, an aspiring politician in Nottingham who is nonetheless a pauper. He falls in love with Marian as well while Robin is overseas fighting in the Crusades. Will hopes to change the way the poor people of Nottingham are treated in terms of the unfair taxation for example, but he’s not as revolutionary as Robin or Marian. He’s more pragmatic and prefers or doesn’t mind the system. He’d rather work within that system as opposed to Robin and Marian who want to overthrow it. Obviously, this is a theme that isn’t new, but it’s well rendered and debated in this film.
Egerton gets the same treatment in recent comic-book movies like those in the Marvel cinematic universe. Namely, he’s given a shirtless, beefcake scene in between the set-pieces that have him running and jumping, as well as trying to survive in the center of fight scenes where he’s getting attacked from all around him. Instead of bullets, the weapon of choice is a bow-and-arrow. If one is familiar with the MCU characters in The Avengers, then one will understand that there doesn’t need to be a solo Hawkeye film because this is essentially it. A Hawkeye film would probably have cars or motorcycles, whereas this one is all about horses and carriages through narrow, old England streets.
How people enjoyed the gun action in films like John Wick (2014) or Michael Mann films, the arrow action here is pretty frenetic and a bombardment. Robin becomes a thief that’s all about taking valuable coins from the Sheriff’s men who unfairly tax the citizens. Essentially, he commits heists. A lot of them are at night and so are less impressive, as one can barely see anything. The initial action sequence in Arabia and the center-piece, which takes place in the treasury are both done in the daytime and both are pretty incredible and fun. The final scene is somewhat clever and more thrilling than the final sequence in last week’s Widows.
Rated PG-13 for violence and action, and some suggestive references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 56 mins.