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Robin Hood Review

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This revisionist retelling of the classic tale features a less-than-altruistic Robin Hood and a fiesty Maid Marion who isn't afraid of a little swordplay.

★★★★★

Ah yes, another version of Robine Hoode Ande His Merrye Menne Riding Through The Sherwoode Glen. And why not? After all, isn’t classic folklore all about infinite retellings through the ages? Anyway, nothing could be more timeless and timely than a dashing young wit taking up arms with his grassrooted pals against The Oppressed Man. And they sleep under the stars, use no fossil fuels, gunpowder, or any chlorofluorocarbons whatsoever!

Simply irresistable? Well, in this case, thanks to a lack of swashbuckling charm and fun, the answer is, simply, no. Robin and Co.’s best quality has always been their cavalier, fun-loving style where wit and mischief give sex appeal to their serious rebellion against the brutal 12th century Normans.

Here, Patrick Bergin plays Robin as a privileged nobleman who gives up his easy life for The Cause more out of some pained moral conscience than that sporting sense of fair play we so enjoyed when mum and dad told us his story at bedtime. Sure, there are lots of the familiar “funny” scenes where Robin taunts, fights, and then enlists Little John and Friar Tuck, or publicly insults and humiliates his aristocratic enemies, but all the while we get over-hearty belly laughs and awkward emphasis on crap-like bowmanship in place of that warm egalitarianism so crucial to the fun in the myth.

Similarly the bad guys, played by Jeroen Krabbe and Jurgen Prochnow, spend all their time doing and ordering evil deeds without ever showing any dastardly hearts to motivate them. Only Maid Marian, played well enough by a gaunt Uma Thurman, appears to have true reason to dump her tyrannical suitor for good-hood Robin, who can at least laugh, albeit too loudly and often.

Still, these two aren’t a patch on the smouldering Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland of fifty-odd years ago in the one unmissable Robin movie to date. All in all Robin Hood is at least a colourful period affair, with the odd bit of noisy swordfighting punctuating some very Pythonesque depictions of muddy Medieval squalor.

Kevin Coster didn't have to split many arrows to win 1991's battle of the Hoods thanks to this weak script and wooden portrayal of Nottingham's most famous export.