By Jack Dignan
In Cinemas Now
When a film opens with narration telling you to “forget everything you think you know,” my worries for what’s to come are not alleviated. But, given that this is the umpteenth big screen rendition of Robin Hood, that’s exactly how this film begins. This time around, not only should you forget everything you know, but it's probably best to forget everything you think you liked, because you won't find that here. We return to the town of Nottingham, as led by a villainous sheriff portrayed by the ever-evil Ben Mendelsohn. The titular hero, Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton), has returned home after four years of service in the war, only to find that he was mispronounced dead and the life he once knew has been stripped away.
Times have changed for young Robin. After gaining a new perspective on the world, he begins to see the chain of villainy building all the way up to the higher powers ruling over the land. So, teaming up with his former enemy turned friend Little John (Jamie Foxx), they begin to steal money from the rich and give it to the poor. You can probably fill in the blanks on what happens next. Oh, and along the way you’ll get the occasional action sequence or two, mixed together with a romantic love triangle between Robin’s former girlfriend Marian (Eve Hewson) and her new partner Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan).
The legend of Robin Hood is one that dates back centuries, making this a story you’ve no doubt seen or heard about countless times in your life. It’s a story that will be told over and over and over again, which, unfortunately for this film, means that the latest big screen iteration is anything but exciting. This new action adventure feels like a subpar version of the CW TV show Arrow, which feels like a subpar version of Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film Batman Begins. Their parallels, particularly to the former, are blinding obvious and numbingly clichéd.
You’ve got a man who was presumed dead, returning home to find the love of his life off with somebody else, who now wishes to spend their nights fighting crime and stealing from the rich using a bow and arrow, while during the day they maintain their near-celebrity status to get in with the big wigs of the town. Familiar? You bet. But when going into a Robin Hood movie, you probably should expect that. It’s what they do with this familiarity that makes or breaks the movie, and unfortunately it’s more in the latter side of things.
If I’m being perfect honest, a lot of early reactions and one-star reviews did have me prepared for a much worse movie, so the fact that there’s some genuinely enjoyable action sequences (particularly an explosive one that takes place in a mine, and another that takes place during an audacious heist) was a very welcomed bonus. It’s just that these moments of fun and charm, which are elevated by a sensational cast, are severely burdened by uninteresting filmmaking that feels like discount Guy Ritchie, as well as a lackluster and groan-inducing screenplay that utilises the worst lines imaginable and gives it to people who barely feel like characters. Logic? Forget it. You won’t find that here.
Ben Mendelsohn is memorable in the same role he’s played in his last eight films, but his character makes no sense. He’s evil for the sake of being evil, constantly bursting into sinister monologues without any coherent flow. He does his best at making these lines work, which is only a true testament to his skill as a performer given the atrocities of the lines he’s forced to deliver. And then, just as his character starts to get a half-interesting scene, the film abruptly wraps things up and sets up a cliffhanger for a sequel that will never come. Remember that King Arthur movie from last year that ended setting up seven sequels? Yeah, get ready for the 2018 equivalent.
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