Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood

The Film: Robin Hood

The Actors: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchette, Max Von Sydow, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Danny Huston, etc.

The Dealio: This time around the story proposes that the son of a politically active stone mason, (Robin Longstride...get it? Two Robins for the price of one), now an archer in the crusading army of Richard the Lion-hearted (an almost unrecognisable Huston), returns to England with a duty (returning a family sword) and under the guise of the real Robin of Locksley, who gave him the sword on his deathbed. Don't think I am giving away any crucial plot points here; this dealio occurs within the first 15 minutes of the film.
Once back in Nottingham, Robin realises that things have disintegrated into a sorry pass, indeed. While Richard taxed and stripped the land to support his, hopefully, soul-saving mission, now his bro, the nasty, duplicitous piece of work I will always remember from The Lion In Winter (faaah-bul-us film, that) as pimply-face dolt Johnny- steps up to the plate. Despite some pretty great, revolutionary stuff with the Magna Carta, overall, I would have to characterise King John's reign as more of the same, with bells on.
The background of this tale involves back-stabbing minions/minor royalty, greed, savagery and the standard reward for honor and loyalty being loss power, the strippage of the wherewithal to survive, materially, and lots of plotting the downfall of England on the part of the always reliable French.
As Ridley Scott styles it, there is nary a pair of tights in sight and almost no sword play, either. A taddy bit disappointing, that. Instead, archery and some wicked-looking, pretty lethal hammer-axe combos abound. There are bees and, therefore, ya gotta have mead; higgins-boats (How too-20th century of the French!); homespun gowns covering sheer silk underpinnings and lots of pretty decent music, including Lillibulero from Barry Lyndon.

The Grading Session: 4.791 pengies out of 5. Yes, I liked it. But at 2 hours, 20 minutes, could' ve used at least 20 minutes sheared off-with absolutely no loss of the overall tone and flavor of the piece.
Crowe and Blanchette are predictably grand- although it is Max Von Sydow, as the blind Sir Walter of Locksley, who showed up primed to kick butt and take names...acting-wise. His Walter is, at turns flinty and debilitated, wily and foolish, hidebound by custom and willing to bend the facts to suit the situation. Wonderful in a relatively minor role, Von Sydow makes away with each scene he enters...even if only in the background.
I revelled in the sumptuous scenery, the realism of the French king seasick, the horrible teeth and non-existent sanitation so typical of the time (I am always puzzled when I see whole armies turned out like they stopped on the way into battle at the One Hour Martinising. Well, none of that here). My date was touched by the strong father-son parts of the storyline and also by the change-up in the plot that allowed the real Robin of Locksley to reconcile with his father and settle a wrong, all in one grand game of bait and switch. Which, in turn, touched off another moving father and son reunion. Both of these, posthumous.

Lessons Learned: Never underestimate the transformative power of greed and ambition. Especially if both occur in the same weasily person.

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