Unnecessary? Yes. Historically inaccurate? Ridiculously so. Fun? Absolutely, you miserable bunch. 2018’s “Robin Hood” sets out to put a modern #OccupySherwood spin on the age-old tale of the redistribution of medieval wealth and taken on its own bonkers terms, there’s a lot of fun to have with this bombastic fast and feudal adventure yarn.
Sent to the holy land by the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) rebels against the cruelty of his commanders and is sent home to find his home in ruins and his lands seized. With the help of ‘Little John’ (Jamie Foxx), Robin begins a campaign of rebellion against the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn).
From the opening scene of a thief, Marian (Eve Hewson) stealing one of Lockley’s horses with an improbable and impractical cleavage-windowed outfit on, “Robin Hood” sets its stall out as a ridiculously over-the-top action adventure more focused on delivering cool medieval action scenes than getting all the intricate details of history and folklore right.
Oh, it vaguely tries to justify itself by adding some topical thematic flourishes (equating the Crusades with the modern War On Terror, refashioning the Sheriff of Nottingham as an illegitimate and corrupt leader, secretly in hock to a hostile foreign power (2018’s umpteenth cinematic Trump surrogate) but it’s completely oblivious to the irony that in its telling, Robin of Locksley becomes radicalised by an Islamic immigrant and begins a campaign of terror attacks: exactly the false danger the Sheriff (and his modern-day populist counterparts) use to justify their actions. Ultimately, though, the film’s too much of an excitable puppy of a motion picture to concentrate too long on anything so dull and serious as subtext.
Liberally borrowing from TV’s “Arrow” and “Batman Begins”, not since the heady days of Joel Schumacher’s Batcave has suiting up been quite so fetishized. Nottingham is transformed into a renaissance fair fantasia with Tolkein highlights and the costumery of peasant and nobility alike is stunning feudal couture and somehow, against all common sense, the bow and arrow becomes an effective close-quarters and even melee weapon. Director Otto Bathurst, making his feature debut, knows how to put together an action sequence and is wise enough to know that if historical accuracy doesn’t matter then the laws of physics can probably take a back seat too.
Egerton makes for a cocky and likeable Robin Hood, not far removed from “Kingman’s” Eggsy but he’s clearly having a lot of fun in the role, conspiring with Jamie Foxx in a game of hammy one-upmanship. Mendelssohn can’t quite seem to make up his mind whether or not to follow in Alan Rickman’s footsteps or do something new so ends up veering wildly between camp supervillainy and growling menace, which just seems to add to the bonkers atmosphere. F Murray Abraham as a villainous Cardinal and Jamie Dornan – as the voice of civility in the face of tyranny and corruption – are good value but it’s a shame that Tim Minchin seems oddly subdued where it might have suited the movie better for his Friar Tuck to amp up the comedy.
This 2018 “Robin Hood” might play as a companion piece to “King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword” but where it scores over that movie is that it never takes itself seriously, it’s in on its own joke and constantly winking to the audience. It’s as dumb as rocks but if you get your head around the fact it’s nothing more than a middle ages riff on “The Fast And The Furious”, you’d have to be particularly joyless not to have just a little bit of fun with it.