Going to see a Russell Crowe movie is starting to become an event in itself. The Oscar-winning actor is getting a status that will have him up there with the likes of Richard Burton – and he'll grow old gracefully and disgracefully – I hope.
Crowe is now such a powerful force on the big screen, I go along just to see him act, perform and work his own magic within a character.
As Ridley's Scott's Robin Hood unfurled its story, Russell loomed large. You could have called it Robin Stomper, The Outsider or even Medieval Confidential.
What Ridley Scott got right was not telling the same old Robin Hood tale we've all heard before, but taking the unprecedented step of doing the prequel first. How Robin got his hoods is the story – how he became an outlaw and a purist socialist is at the end of this prequel. The story also follows the war between the English and those lay-down-Sally-surrender-monkeys: the French – and reveals Robin's staunch nationalism before a gut-wrenching betrayal. This is the story we don't know about Robin Hood – and how he got his cool name.
What Ridley Scott got wrong was making Prince John (Oscar Isaac) as weak as Comodus (Joaquin Phoenix) in Gladiator. Though he did get some great lines of dialogue.
The merry men really are quite merry (despite reports to the contrary) as there's pretty much a beer and wine fest on whenever Robin's hoods are around. In fact, Robin's three best buddies remind me a lot of South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Mention must be made of the great production values. Some of the shots looked like they were moving images from a Vermeer painting and Ridley Scott sometimes seemed to reference the chiaroscuro we saw Coppola use extensively in The Godfather. The cool greens and greys of the natural and man-made landscapes pre-date smog and give the appearance of a cleaner greener time. Except for the people – all of whom were pretty much dentally-challenged. And I giggled at the little Medieval band-aids in close-ups of fingers. They even had cross-hatch stitching – probably because plastic adhesive was still around 700+ years into the future.
Now, I love Mark Strong – he played an outstanding role as a gangster dad in Kick Ass and he brings enough strength to the screen to match Russell's – and that ain't easy. Even with that cankerous sore on his face that just never seemed to heal (penicillin was 700+ years away as well) Strong just acts his butt off and is so wonderful, I kind of wanted him to win a few before he lost a few.
That brings me to Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion. The coupling of her with Crowe on screen was the one I've been waiting to see. They should have been the duo Baz Lurhmann cast in Australia but alas, it was not to be. She came off the screen like Joan Of Arc and perfectly matched Robin Hood. They were great together. I hope the tension can be maintained in the sequel when they have to set up their socialist household in Sherwood Forest.
Other notable cast members include Max von Sydow, William Hurt and make way for Kevin Durand as Little John. What a joy he is.
Don't believe the hype dismissing this movie as just 'Gladiator In The UK.' There are hallmarks on collaborations. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are an Oscar-winning team. Other collaborators have common features across projects too. Look at anything done by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp together as well as Leonardo di Caprio and Martin Scorsese.
I liked Robin Hood and will go see the sequel when it comes out.