US (12+). Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong
Robin Hood is an unpredictable beast: while the shakycam action sequences, effete young villain and moody presence of Russell Crowe hark back to the Gladiator days, this is far closer to director Ridley Scott’s ambitious but unloved Kingdom of Heaven in its depiction of a world ruled by brute force and striving for moral direction. Anyone expecting a straightforward woodland beat-em-up will be bemused and most likely dismayed by the intricacies of the narrative, particularly when it becomes clear that Scott has been forced to trim back the action to fit in all the dastardly goings-on. Add a complete absence of characterisation, some laughable accents (Crowe sounds like he’s auditioning for Coronation Street) and a sense of history that would make Simon Schama scream, and you’ve got the makings of what should be a tedious, overblown disaster.
Yet for all his faults, Scott knows what he’s doing. The film looks terrific: the English landscape hasn’t looked so lush and magical for a long time, particularly in a clutch of gorgeous moonlit night scenes. Aesthetically it’s convincing, which goes a long way towards offsetting the more nutty convolutions in the plot. And while characterisation has been cut to the bone, Crowe, Blanchett, Strong and especially Max Von Sydow remain eminently watchable, with strong, likeable support from the likes of Mark Addy as Friar Tuck and Matthew MacFadyen as a marvellously greasy Sheriff of Nottingham.