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Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves Review

Image for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves

Peasant Robin, and his socialist idealism, musters an army of Merry Men to even out the Sherwood social strata, much the annoyance of a cranky sheriff of Nottingham. Robin also finds time to woo the fiest Maid Marian.

★★★★★

Some 82-years after making his motion picture debut, Robin Of Locksley, the ultimate good guy, the prototype for every non-pacifist righter of wrongs in Western culture, now returned to our screens in this $55 million, major-talent, somewhat "loose" interpretation of the legend of the man in tights of green.

Fraught with problems, horribly rushed, and with six producers too many, this particular Robin Hood was never going to be a particularly slick affair and, depending on your own personal level of pedantry, the considerable technical, historical, geographical and linguistic gaffes deflect particularly on this side of the Atlantic.

That words such as turncoat, not invented for another 400 years, are inexplicably sprinkled about the generally turgid script may not be too great cause for alarm, along with the extraordinary selection of accents on offer — Californian, New York, Devon, Cockney and Shakespearian English to name but a few.

When it comes to single scenes embracing the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, highland moors and rolling middle-English countryside, however, patience is stretched a touch, finally snapping when "Sherwood" Forest is seen for the first time as a distinctly 20th century conifer plantation (only to transmogrify into a beautiful beech and oak affair when we get inside), while the various trees on display oscillate between full autumn-gold splendour and the bare-branched bleakness of winter and back again within a single fight scene.

With a $55 million budget, one does wonder at times like these if the filmmakers could not perhaps have spent a few bob and a little time to check these things. The story — give or take a few druids, a Moor (the excellent Freeman), some devil-worship and the notable absence of Prince John — is the same as ever. Landless nobleman Robin (Costner, frankly sleepwalking through his $7 million role) repairs to the forest to lead a bunch of outlaws (all good value) against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Rickman), robs from rich gits in gold braid, poleaxes a few conical-hatted Normans, gives the poor the readies, and falls for the feisty-yet-chaste Marian (Mastrantonio, who we know can do a better English accent, because she did it in Fools Of Fortune).

As such, it's fun and frantic, although the wit — the use of the word "fuck" being deemed hilarious — falls way short of an Indy or a Terminator, and nearly everything that happens has been done before, and better, in movies from Beetlejuice to Die Hard.

Things do liven up immensely, however, whenever Alan Rickman hits the screen. This man is obviously having a lot of fun here with his Sheriff, a diabolically petulant bastard, played with gleeful pantomime-esque camp, and backed up brilliantly by his sidekick, the deeply unpleasant Guy of Gisborne (Michael Wincott).

Indeed, between them, these two regularly save the whole thing from grinding to a dreary halt. Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves still more than recoupped its considerable outlay, drawing huge box-office in the face of a considerable critical mauling.

With so much money and talent at work here, though, this latest incarnation of the legend is considerably smaller than the sum of its parts.