Robin Hood (2018) Review


Robin Hood is a flexible story, but the essence remains the same: a rogue-ish underdog fights the power on behalf of the people. Director Otto Bathurst (“Peaky Blinders”) seizes the heart of the story but fails to deliver on it. Filled with political themes and messages, the film is aimed at a modern audience rather than trying to create a “12 Years A Slave”-style accurate depiction of an era. Had the writing and filmmaking not been so uninspired, Robin Hood could’ve been a great politically charged movie. Instead, it is a strong contender for the Worst Movie of the Year award.

This version of the classic story portrays Robin Hood (Taron Egerton) as a class traitor — a veteran of the Crusades who is born into wealth. He takes up arms against the blatantly evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) after returning home to find his home impoverished by the sheriff’s heavy taxes to fund the war effort. Robin is joined by the Saracen John Little (Jamie Foxx), whose son he attempted to save during the Crusades. Robin plays a dual role, stealing from the Sheriff while at the same time infiltrating his inner circle as Robin of Loxley. It is there he uncovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king and subjugate the people even further.

The supporting heroes – including Robin’s former fiancee Maid Marian (Eve Hewson) and the popular clergyman Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) – are wearied and require little prompting to join Robin in “a little redistribution of wealth.”

The screenplay (Ben Chandler and David James Kelly) couples a timeless story to contemporary ideas and language.  The filmmakers push the agenda even further, creating a fast, loud and disjointed movie with a political edge. The movie enthusiastically owns its many painful anachronisms, such as custom-cut leather jackets, Molotov cocktails and fight scenes featuring archers shooting arrows that explosively pierce stone rapid fire in close quarters, like something out of “Black Hawk Down.”  

The dialogue is filled with messy political messaging that seems to exist only to draw obvious and uninsightful connections between today and the film. During the film, the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is depicted as a Trump-Bolsonaro-Orban styled nationalist/racist tyrant, quotes the George W. Bush post 9/11 statement “They hate us for our freedom,”  referencing the Muslim armies that fight the Christian warriors overseas. This modern-day fear-mongering is omnipresent throughout the film, bashing you over the head with its lukewarm political insights.

The cynicism to the powers-that-be throughout the film feels genuine, however, and touches every part of the film. Will Scarlet, Marian’s new husband, is portrayed as a modern-day centrist in the same vein as French President Emmanuel Macron. He gives his closely-guarded sympathies to Robin’s cause, which is portrayed like Antifa complete with Molotov cocktails and face-covering bandanas while decrying their methods and trying to protect a system that has offered him a comfortable and stable life. The film serves as a blatant and obvious statement against organized religion, capitalism, and nationalism.

While the messaging may be radical, the storytelling is anything but. The only thing the re-telling truly modernized about Robin Hood is his wardrobe. Robin Hood’s relationships with John (another disabled black mentor/father figure to a good-looking young white man) and Marian (a lady in need of saving, no matter how sassy she is while she resists the sheriff’s men).

The directing is formulaic, capturing the action but evoking no emotion. The cinematography is unattractive at its best and unbearable at its worst. It wastes its wide framing and is shot in a fast-cut style, complete with loud rumblings to let you know important things happened. The special effects are dodgy, and the actors are obviously not inhabiting the same space as the action, which makes you wonder what the millions of dollars were spent on.

Both Egerton and Foxx are miscast. Foxx yells each line like he is trying to be heard over a marching band and seems content to only portray the emotion anger. Egerton and Hewson have almost as much chemistry as a frog and a bobblehead, but the worst performance by far comes from Murray Abraham(the Cardinal)  and his truly unfortunate wig.

“Robin Hood” may have robbed from a rich source material but it won’t give you the two hours you wasted back.