Off Target: Our Review Of ‘Robin Hood’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 21, 2018
Off Target: Our Review Of ‘Robin Hood’

Robin Hood begins with a meet-cute between the legendary lovers, Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) and Marian (Eve Hewson), after she skulks onto Robin’s estate and tries stealing one of his horses. Robin catches her in the act but immediately lets her go because he thinks she’s hot. And with that attempted horse-jacking, a love for the ages is born. That’s as deep as director Otto Bathurst is willing to go with Robin Hood’s characters, plot, and themes, which is a shame for this timeless story. In 2018, who isn’t up for a tale about a 1 percenter having a change of heart and secretly bleeding his wealthy former friends dry?

The film skims over Robin and Marian’s love affair and take us to the day when he gets drafted into the Crusades. From here, the story fast forwards another four years to Robin’s last day on the battlefield. Notice a trend here? Robin tries – and fails – to save a young Muslim man’s life and gets sent back to England for his treasonous act. Sensing something good in the disgraced lord, the dead man’s father (Jamie Foxx) follows Robin back to England and takes him under his wing.

He teaches Robin a set of ninja-like skills and then sends him out on missions to stick it to their enemies. To hide his identity, Robin dons a mask and takes on the persona of The Hood, a bandit/man of the people who robs from the rich. Before long, the crooked Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) and the head of the corrupt Church feel The Hood’s sting. As they join forces to crush The Hood’s rebellion, it takes every tactic in Robin’s arsenal to put an end to their tyranny.

Robin Hood Buddies

On paper, Bathurst’s take on Robin Hood looks like a sure bet. You have talented actors, playing iconic roles, from a legendary story. A filmmaker would have to go out of their way to squander all this picture’s acting talent. And Bathurst, working off of Ben Chandler and David James Kelly’s lacking script, does precisely that.

The film lives or dies with Taron Egerton. His casting is the film’s safest bet since he’s an actor uniquely suited to the role. Robin Hood is a slight variation on his work in the Kingsman series. Those films provide a slick, modern, and edgy take on classic James Bond movies. Robin Hood offers a grittier, edgier, modernized version of Robin Hood’s stuffy old lore. We know Egerton has the chops to pull off this role since he has done it before, but this film stifles every last iota of his charm. Even Foxx, a blustering supernova of charisma comes through as one more dull guy with a shaky accent. This movie is so plot-centric that it never stops to flesh out the characters. Despite employing a talented cast in proven roles, Bathurst shows no interest in character building or exploring actors’ onscreen chemistry.

Mendelsohn’s Sheriff of Nottingham is by far the film’s biggest disappointment. Is there a better recipe for kitschy pleasure than serving Mendelsohn such a deliciously villainous role? He brings lowlifes and scumbags to life with the artistry of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. And yet, one is hard-pressed to find a memorable quip, mannerism, or facial tick in this performance. I’m getting concerned about our man Mendelsohn. He keeps whiffing on the villainous roles that play to his skill-set. Does anybody remember a damn thing about his characters in Ready Player One and Rogue One? I’m sorry to say it, but it’s time to start checking myself when Mendelsohn’s name comes up in casting news.

There are many cinematic takes on Robin Hood’s mythology, and there’s room for them all if they each bring something distinct to the table. Previous explorations of the lore featured stunning performances, emphasized the romance, and even played the mythos for laughs. This version is an action flick through and through. Robin Hood 2018 throws compelling characters, touching romances, and a memorable story out the window in favour of over-the-top action. Considering that insane action beats are this movie’s bread and butter, it’s unfathomable that the film bungles these too. Robin Hood suffers from the same hyper-kinetic editing that ruins too many promising action flicks (I see you Mile 22).

Robin Hood Stuntin

Robin Hood has no shortage of elabourate action sequences and impressive stunt work. The problem is that the film won’t slow down to let viewers appreciate what’s happening. Since Bathurst is always in a rush to get to the next shot, most of the action takes place so fast you’re afraid to blink lest you miss something. It’s impressive seeing Robin load up his bow with four arrows and unload on enemies like a video game end-level boss. Too often, the camera cuts before the bodies hit the floor. There is too much build up and too little payoff. I can appreciate the work that went into staging these intricate set pieces and grew frustrated watching the frantic cuts lessen the impact.

The best aspect of Robin Hood is how aggressively it strives to break from historical conventions. Cinematographer George Steel captures one military battle as though he’s filming Black Hawk Down; the opposing forces fire tricked out weapons that combine crossbows and Tommy guns; characters wear modern-looking outfits. With their fitted leather jackets, colourful dresses, and chic waistcoats, the people of Nottingham seem to have given up on their local tailor in favour of shopping at a Zara. The fresh-looking costumes are fun additions that add spice to a film that lacks flavour.

Robin Hood is a total disappointment but not a total mess; it offers about ⅓ of a good movie. Most of the time this film comes across as dull, trite, and uninspired. The underdeveloped characters lack chemistry and the action — the film’s selling point — is so over-edited it lacks visceral impact. All the right elements are present for a good movie; the veteran cast, the rich mythology, and the ambitious new perspective. But Bathurst is in too much of a rush to let his picture settle down and find its groove. We’re left with a cool stunt here, a funny line there, and a whole lot of joyless filler in between.

  • Release Date: 11/21/2018
This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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