I wondered to myself this week, if what the world really needed in November 2018 was a new grim-dark remake of Robin Hood; a story so thoroughly done to death in Western cinema that when Hollywood tried this in 2009, audiences and critics panned it and collectively prayed it would be the last we saw of angry men in tights (until the next DC film release, that is). And yet there was no denying what I then sat through for almost two interminable hours, was a film which could be described as having a bowl of cold porridge poured over your head and just as exciting. If you thought Venom had nailed the bullseye of dumb, triple-A cinema this year, I am here to inform you that Robin Hood has just split the arrow.
“This is director Otto Bathurst’s first feature after a string of directing credits in television and, if Hood is anything to go by, he appears to have made the transition about as well as a Great White Shark would to the Gobi Desert”
In 12th Century Nottingham – which looks more like Narnia by way of King’s Landing – suave but loveable Robin of Loxley (Taron Edgerton) is cruelly torn from his love interest of five-minutes, Marion (Eve Hewson), as he is conscripted to fight in the Third Crusade by the wicked Sherriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn). Upon return he finds his manor in ruins, his lady shacked up with the ruggedly handsome Will (Scarlet, played by Jamie Dornan) and decides to take revenge on the big bad with the help of not-so-little John (Jamie Foxx) by, essentially, becoming Batman with a bow. This is all prefaced with a voiceover from Tim Minchin’s Tuck (who’s a Friar), and who asks us to ‘forget what you know’. However, it would also be helpful to forget your higher functions if you’re going to make it to the end of this train wreck.
This is director Otto Bathurst’s first feature after a string of directing credits in television and, if Hood is anything to go by, he appears to have made the transition about as well as a Great White Shark would to the Gobi Desert. It has been years since I’ve seen a Hollywood feature with so little idea of what it wants to be. The prologue following Rob and his ‘squad’ during the crusades plays out like Saving Private Loxley, complete with body armour resembling modern-day flak jackets and a ballista that fires fifty bolts a minute. No, really. The visual style is all over the place as well; it seems to be going for a Game of Thrones-y sort of vibe but when there’s a close-up of a literal pair of high-heels any pretence of realism goes out the window because Bathurst clearly has no idea when 1190 is, and we realise that what Robin Hood wants to be more than anything else is Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur.
The plot meanders between nauseatingly out-of-focus action sequences with gratuitous amounts of slow motion like they’re being edited by a sloth on Nyquil, and ear scraping dialogue between thoroughly unlikeable characters. Jamie Foxx is just channelling Django with his family-motivated revenge arc and Edgerton is just a charisma vacuum in the lead. I know that cheeky smirk he does worked for Kingsman’s Eggsy but alongside ham-fisted attempts to show Rob as being a damaged man from his time at war it’s utterly laughable, as is his expression when he sees Marion and Will together for the first time – you can almost hear the trumpets going ‘wah-wah-waaaahhh’ on the soundtrack.
“Tim Minchin is easily the best thing in it, though. He may look for all the world like Bill Bailey at the renaissance fayre who wisely stops trying to do an English accent about halfway through, but he gets the one, possibly two laugh-lines in the film”
Ben Mendelsohn is certainly leaving bite marks in much of the scenery with his absurd performance but it’s so over the top it just about succeeds in being entertaining rather than painful. After all, it takes a lot of skill to wring enjoyment from a line like, ‘I’m going to drown you in your own piss’, and even more to do it while dressed as a Nazi officer styled by Prada. Yes, it mostly reminds you of Alan Rickman’s much funnier Sheriff in Prince of Thieves, but Mendelsohn still manages to be sinister; sinister enough to have a grossly misplaced child abuse backstory all but spelled out at one point, much to my surprise in a 12A, I can tell you. Tim Minchin is easily the best thing in it, though. He may look for all the world like Bill Bailey at the renaissance fayre who wisely stops trying to do an English accent about halfway through, but he gets the one, possibly two laugh-lines in the film and, for whatever it’s worth, deserves a better movie than this tyre fire.
Every other character is welcome to a face-full of Black Death, as far as I’m concerned. Even though Rob’s motivation means he is essentially an anarchist with some groovy ideas about wealth redistribution, I still couldn’t get behind the guy. The final heist that clumsily moves into a confrontation with the big bad that’s resolved in less than five minutes, and gets followed by a sequel hook nobody asked for is the final nail in the film’s coffin. An overdesigned, badly shot, preposterously written and shockingly acted mess, with a script worthy of an autopsy all on its own. For the trash cinema connoisseurs this really is an all-you-can-eat buffet. For everyone else, consider it like you would a forgotten late-night kebab that’s been left out in the sun, then bin it before it starts attracting flies.