What balderdash. And not the fun kind, either.
A “Robin Hood” where The Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne are TWO different characters. A “Robin Hood” with a Friar Tuck who is not jolly or plump with dietary corruption. A “Robin Hood” with no “Merry Men,” no “Little John,” where Sherwood Forest is an afterthought — at best.
Turning the original English rebel into an icon fighting the global wealth oligarchy, “the people” rallying around him like Antifa protesters (Medieval Molotov Cocktails at the ready), the venal One Percent of East and West in collusion against the rest of us? That’s something I could get behind, or could have been.
Line up two Oscar winners (Jamie Foxx, F. Murray Abraham) to class up the cast, hire EveryBADMan Ben Mendelsohn as the heavy — I’m OK with that, too.
But so much just feels and plays wrong, tin-eared and foolish. Remember these screenwriters — Ben Chandler and David James Kelly. There’s a reason they have no other credits.
“Forget history,” they have their hero/narrator urge us in the opening. Because they have. This is a Robin out of his own time, shoehorned into ours, and there’s a lot that’s bloody and nothing that’s merry about that.
Their anachronistic, almost entirely humorless and utterly joyless “Prince of Thieves” has pretty much nothing to recommend it.
I should name the costumer who skimped by telling Mendelsohn to swipe clothes from sci-fi film sets he’s been on, who dresses “The Hood” (It’s what they call him back in Ole England) in Ninja-wear. Every armored soldier, every Crusader and Saracen/Moor fighting in the Near East, every Lady of Court, every peasant looks…wrong.
The machine-gun crossbows, Nazi leather overcoats and high explosives make one long for the historical accuracy of “A Knight’s Tale.”
The plot is such a head-scratcher you need to stop head-scratching once you draw blood.
And the callow leads — Taron Egerton and Eve Hewson — give credence to the truism that “Young love is wasted on the young.”
Robin and Marian have a pre-Crusades relationship which Robin of Locksley’s “Draft Notice” interrupts. Years in Arabia later, he leads his men into an ambush, and when they survive it and turn the tide of the Moors and other Muslims, Robin tries to prevent the mass executions that were the by product of Holy War.
Robin is wounded, but bonds to a fierce Moorish warrior (Foxx, who always gives fair value) with an unpronounceable name.
“Just call me John, son of Omar.”
Robin’s return to Nottingham lets these two reconnect. Marian? She’s taken up with Irish labor organizer Will (Jamie Dornan). Just as well, as John the Moor is hellbent on breaking the “rich guys tax the rest of us and send us off to die in their wars” status quo. He needs Robin’s help.
The film gives away its Britishness by including the Catholic Church in that unholy alliance keeping the poor in their place.
“Fear is the greatest weapon in God’s arsenal,” the cynical cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) hisses.
“We want their backs bent and their heads bowed,” growls his underling, the Arch Deacon (Ian Peck).
Hey, remember your Marx — Karl, not Groucho — “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
Robin and John will attack the “bank of the Crusades,” Nottingham, by stealing the Sheriff’s treasury and emptying the church’s collection plates.
Robin will become The Scarlet Pimpernel, playing the loyal royalist by day, donning “the hood” by night.
The Oppressed People take to him and start nailing hand-stitched leather cowls (hoods) to walls in tribute. That had to run into some serious money.
The Friar (Tim Minchin, almost funny) is trapped in the middle — trying to placate the Sheriff, inspire Will (Scarlet) and Marian, and keep Robin’s secret as he pilfers from the prosperous and flings cash at the poor.
Mendelsohn has little to chew on here. He is the dullest sheriff in living movie memory, and I say that as a Ben M. fan. Hewson is beguiling in her introductory scene (a thief covered in a veil herself) and makes no impression afterward.
Egerton, I fear, will never get a decent review from me. “Kingsman,” “Bad Night at the El Royale,” the list goes on…and grows.
Abraham relishes roles of lip-smacking villainy, and Foxx is so good you wish he was in a better movie.
But a director (Otto Bathurst) with “Peaky Blinders/Black Mirror” TV credits, and two hacks who think machine-gun crossbows, Molotov Cocktails and the like are what the Middle Ages REALLY needed wouldn’t be working on it with him.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, F. Murray Abraham
Credits:Directed by Otto Bathurst, script by Ben Chandler, David James Kelly. A Summit release.
Running time: 1:56