In “Robin Hood,” Taron Egerton’s title character is not your average archer stealing from the rich to give to the poor. He’s no merry man in tights wearing a silly bycocket hat. Instead, he’s Rob “The Hood,” and he’s got a score to settle with the sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn).
First-time director Otto Bathurst (“Peaky Blinders”), working from a script by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, also writing their first feature, craft a Robin Hood origin story that completely misses the target. In short, the movie is a mess, a wannabe epic of good versus evil. It tries (too) hard to capture a “Game of Thrones” vibe. The battle scenes are convoluted with arrows flying all over the place. Many killings and beatings happen, but curiously enough there’s never any bloodshed, even when Jamie Foxx’s Moorish soldier, John, loses a hand. If you’re eyes roll straight out of your head, you won’t be alone.
The lackluster script is full of pedestrian dialogue. Particularly cringe-inducing are the contemporary touches Bathurst and crew add to make their story seem hip, such as the “thank you for your service” line Robin of Loxley, as he’s first known, hears upon returning from fighting in the Crusades in Arabia. It’s a worthwhile sentiment, for sure, but way out of place in 13th century England.
This Loxley is foxy, however. Initially, he’s characterized as just another lord of the manor who wants nothing more than to live happily ever after with the beautiful Marian (Eve Hewson). Naturally, that cold hand of fate intervenes. Upon his return from battle, a presumed-dead Robin finds his estate in shambles and his girl shacked up with another guy (Jamie Dornan). The script pits him and John in an uprising against the corrupt English crown monetarily enriched by the blood of innocents. It’s time for payback. Enter the clichéd villains played by F. Murray Abraham, Ian Peck and Mendelsohn, seemingly playing a version of his “Star Wars” bad guy.
Flashes of Egerton’s (the “Kingsman” movies) rogue charm peek through, even though the character is just another run-of-the-mill action hero. Ditto for Foxx as Robin’s wizened partner in crime who’s seeking his own personal vengeance. The pair is plopped into a just another derivative origin story that never engages or feels urgent because we’ve seen it all before. All the actors have to do is spew platitudes about power and fear. A training montage shows Robin preparing to go stealth is amusingly straight out of “Rocky.” All that’s missing is the iconic music.
With its muted palette of grays and unremarkable CGI-heavy battle scenes, “Robin Hood” will likely be a letdown for fans of the previous Robins: Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe, etc. Was anyone honestly hungry for another Robin Hood movie, anyway? I don’t think so. A sequel is fully set up, by the way, so unless this is a total bomb, this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Rob the Hood.
The film opens with Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) in voiceover promising something different to come. Tuck, who by the way is the best character in the movie, urges us to forget all the previous Robin Hood lore because something darker is coming: “This is no bedtime story,” he says. Yet, by the end I was practically asleep.
— Dana Barbuto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Tim Minchin and Jamie Dornan.
(PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references.)