Robin Hood

 

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The lord of the manor, Loxley of Arabia, returns to Nottingham to lock horns with the sheriff in a rollicking, entertaining reboot of an old English legend.

  

Robin Hood

Lethal weapons: Taron Egerton

 

For such a diminutive isle, Britain has produced more than its fair share of globally recognized characters. From the entire canon of Shakespeare to King Arthur, Scrooge, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, James Bond and Harry Potter, these figures have been repeatedly reinvented, from page to screen to stage. Robin Hood is no less a model of inspiration and returns here in the suitably diminutive form of Taron Egerton in a resurrection that is as entertaining as it is socially relevant. In a world in which the divide between the haves and the have-nots is ever increasing, a lone figure steps up to level the playing field. Actually, it’s the idea of Little John (Jamie Foxx) to rob from the rich and the design of Maid Marian (Eve Hewson) to give it to the poor. And thereby hangs a tale.

 

Just as Paul McGuigan's Victor Frankenstein (2015) began with the voice-over: “You know the story… But sometimes, when you look closely, there's more to a tale”… so this reboot is at pains to distance itself from the legend of yore. Designed like a chapter from Marvel Comics, the films builds as an ‘Origins’ yarn, and so we see Robin and Marian meet cute for the first time (Robin: “I’m Rob”. Marian: “I’m busy”), before plunging us into the war of the Crusades in Arabia. Here, crossbow bolts shatter wood and stone and all the dust and the corpses feel as real as a conflict in Helmand province. The weaponry is fatally sophisticated and in the bloodbath, ‘Rob’ first meets ‘John’ (the latter moniker an Anglicization of his Moorish name), when Rob saves John’s life. Back in Nottingham, Ben Mendelsohn’s sheriff patrols the battlements in an ankle-length leather coat, evoking an aura of the Third Reich.

 

Everything about Otto Bathurst’s Robin Hood feels modern, MTV and pertinent, and the film makes the most of it. Unlike Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, the re-invention here feels fresh and unapologetic, while Taron Egerton invests his rebel with a self-effacing cheekiness. The accents are all over the place, so that when the Dublin-born Hewson (daughter of Bono) clashes with her lover, the Northern Irish Jamie Dornan (as Will Scarlett), you can smell the Troubles. Never has Ye Olde England felt so multi-cultural.

 

One cannot but admire the film’s honesty: and it certainly captures the spirit of the Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn romps of yesteryear. Yet it never shirks its more serious agenda, leaving the redoubtable F. Murray Abraham (as a fiendish cardinal) with the film’s most telling line: “Fear is the greatest weapon in God’s arsenal. Which is why the church created Hell.” Even so, the film is a good sight more fun than the last two forays into Sherwood Forest with Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Paul Anderson, Tim Minchin, F. Murray Abraham, Jamie Dornan, Ian Peck, Cornelius Booth, Kane Headley-Cummings.

 

Dir Otto Bathurst, Pro Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio, Screenplay Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, Ph George Steel, Pro Des Jean-Vincent Puzos, Ed Joe Hutshing and Chris Barwell, Music Joseph Trapanese, Costumes Julian Day.

 

Summit Entertainment/Appian Way Productions/Safehouse Pictures/Thunder Road Films-Lionsgate

115 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 21 November 2018. Cert. 12A.