Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe need to take a break from the bromance. The director and his actor-muse have a mammoth failure in their latest collaboration, Robin Hood. It is by far their worst film together. Yes, it's actually more horrendous than their wine romance, A Good Year. I didn't think that was possible, but ego and laziness is a recipe for failure; no matter how talented you are.
This version of Robin Hood is a prequel of sorts to the story we are all familiar with. It explains the events that turned Robin into the bandit hero of Sherwood Forrest. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a simple archer in the army of King Richard the Lion Heart (Danny Huston). Through fate and circumstance, Robin and his cohorts don the armor of Richard's knights to bring back the crown of the fallen king. And a valued sword to the father of Richard's loyal aide. This all comes into play because of a plot by the French to cause discord in England through the traitorous Lord Godfrey (Mark Strong). The dastardly French strike again.
Robin ends up in Nottingham, where he is convinced to play a ruse. He will pretend to be the long gone Robin of Loxley, so that the widowed wife, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchette), can rightfully inherit the land. No spoilers here, this is a mere overview of screenwriter Brian Helgeland's snoozer of a script. The entire plot is actually quite obvious from the beginning, then you have to spend two hours waiting for it to unfurl in PG-13 rated glory. Helgeland is really a hit or miss screenwriter. He can be a genius, Mystic River, or a flop, The Postman and this gem.
Besides being a painfully obvious film, every character looks like they're dialing in a role. Crowe and Blanchette, tremendous actors, are just making the motions here. I didn't buy their romance for a second. Long furtive glances, misty eyes, you sleep on the bed, me by the fire, it's laughable. These two have zero chemistry, and I have a feeling it's because Scott had too much faith in their skill to see how dead it looks on film.
The action scenes, though meant to be epic, are caricatures of superior films. Robin Hood is rated PG-13, and if it weren't for one or two scenes, could have been PG. It's pretty much bloodless play fighting. You cannot have Gladiator or Braveheart-esque battle scenes if there's no blood or severed limbs. Audiences have gotten too used to realism to give a film like this a pass for no gore. I found the action to be unrealistic and drawn out. It would still fail overall, but would have been much more entertaining as a hard-R film. I suspect studio marketing was the basis of the lesser rating, but it seems foolish when all of the successful Scott/Crowe films were restricted.
This latest rehash of Robin Hood is a prime example of what happens when big stars lose respect for the audience. It's almost as if they thought that a Ridley Scott directed period action-romance, starring the venerated Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchette could never miss. Well it can, especially if the story, acting, and action are lame. I know will see greatness from this group again. They're too good not to. But it seems like a good opportunity was blown here.