The Movie Waffler Now On Netflix - ROBIN HOOD | The Movie Waffler

Now On Netflix - ROBIN HOOD

robin hood review
Latest reimagining of the classic folk tale.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Otto Bathurst

Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, F. Murray Abraham

robin hood 2018 poster

Just like that other great English folk hero, King Arthur, Robin Hood gets a new movie roughly every decade. 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood is still the definitive screen version, while Disney's animated 1973 adventure and Kevin Reynolds' 1991 Prince of Thieves both did a great job of exploiting the derring do aspects of the legends. The latest rendition sees Kingsman's Taron Egerton pull on the hood, and trailers hinted at a film cut from the same burberry cloth as Guy Ritchie's King Arthur, which reinvented the monarch as a cockerney geezer.

Thankfully, director Otto Bathurst's film is far less annoying than Ritchie's, far less ponderous than Ridley Scott's 2010 Robin Hood, and it actually does something interesting with the myth.

robin hood review

When we meet Robin of Loxley first, he's a playboy whiling away his days in Loxley manor until he catches a young woman, Marian (Eve Hewson), attempting to steal his horses. The two become lovers but Robin is drafted into the army and sent to fight in the Crusades. Four years into his service, in the aftermath of a battle, Robin is expelled from the military for attempting to save a young Arab soldier from the chopping block, and is sent back to Nottingham.

There he finds the city is under the grip of the dastardly Sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn, chewing and spitting out the scenery as he channels the controversial British politician Nigel Farage), who has imposed heavy taxes on the populace to fund the Catholic Church's continuing military endeavours. Loxley Manor has been torn asunder and Marian is now betrothed to Will (Jamie Dornan), a Neville Chamberlain-esque politician who believes he can strike a deal with the Sheriff.

Teaming up with 'John' (Jamie Foxx), the father of the Arab boy he tried to save, and who has made his way to England as a stowaway, Robin becomes 'The Hood', an avenging vigilante who steals from the Church and gives the funds back to the people, simultaneously putting a dent in the Crusades.

robin hood review

On the surface, Robin Hood is a very silly movie, but it's also quite smart in how it manages to make the story relevant to our own era without coming across as preachy, and without messing around with the legends to a degree that makes them unrecognisable. Unlike the tokenistic ethnic casting of something like Mary Queen of Scots, Robin Hood gives a very plausible reason why Little John is played by a black man here, giving the character his own objective - halting the Crusades - rather than just making him a henchman of Robin. Some of the most amusing moments involve John training Robin in a riff on the relationship between Sylvester Stallone and Burgess Meredith in the Rocky films, and Egerton and Foxx play off one another very well. Similarly, there's a sexual heat between Egerton's Robin and Hewson's Marian that's very noticeable in our current era of asexual blockbusters. Marian is more than just a love interest here, a feisty heroine who plays a crucial role in the overall narrative.

Unlike most modern wannabe blockbusters, especially those designed to set up a franchise, Robin Hood is commendably focussed on telling a singular story within this film rather than laying down carpet for future instalments to tread and trip over. The plot is refreshingly simple to follow, though as is now the norm, it outstays its welcome with an overlong climax rendered in bland fashion by Bathurst, whose direction is merely serviceable if commendably coherent, and the set-pieces suffer from what looks like half-finished CG effects.

robin hood review

At times, Robin Hood is brazenly derivative - Will's subplot is practically a carbon copy of Harvey Dent's in The Dark Knight while Robin's own arc owes much to Iron Man, and the climactic heist shamelessly lifts the only memorable moment from the 2003 remake of The Italian Job - but it also offers a few moments of surprising originality. A sequence in Arabia sees Robin and his fellow Crusaders bedecked in uniforms that make them look like modern day squaddies in desert fatigues, dodging flying arrows spewed out from a sniper wielding a medieval version of a machine gun and calling in an 'airstrike' of catapulted rocks - very little in modern action movies gets me off my seat, but I have to admit this got my adrenaline going. John teaches Robin how to load four arrows in his bow at once, resulting in scenes that see the hero firing off bolts in quick succession like the protagonist of some '90s Hong Kong action flick. A late riot, with Nottingham's weary working class clad in hoods and face masks like a 12th Century Antifa, plays on recent news footage.

This Robin Hood plays up the political aspects of the folk tale, but never in a manner that gets in the way of the story. Perhaps Robin Hood has endured because his tactics appeal to both sides of the political divide. Those on the left can applaud his redistribution of wealth while those on the right can see him as a hero who battles taxation and big government. In these increasingly divided times, maybe Robin of Loxley is the hero we need right now.

Robin Hood is on Netflix UK now.

2018 movie reviews