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Rated 3.09 stars
by 232 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Before the Legend
by Betty Jo Tucker

What happened to Robin Hood before he became an outlaw? Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood movie explores that topic with the help of a creative script by Brian Helgeland and a strong performance by Russell Crowe in the title role. It also boasts first-rate production values throughout, plenty of exciting action, and Scott’s usual magic touch -- which makes viewers feel like they are part of the experience. No 3-D here, but I almost ducked a few times to get out of the way of those flying arrows!

Of course, Scott and Crowe have worked together before with stunning results. Gladiator earned many accolades for them both and won me over completely. Although Robin Hood may not bring them as much success, it’s another splendid collaboration, one I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I admit being confused about what was happening on screen until about ten minutes into the film. Surprisingly, that worked for me because I became extremely curious to find out how the various characters introduced at the beginning of the movie would be dealt with as the story played out.

We first see Robin Longstride (Crowe) serving in King Richard the Lionheart’s (Danny Huston) army as it battles the French while returning from the Crusades. After Richard is killed, Robin comes upon a dying knight and agrees to take his sword back home to the man’s father (Max Von Sydow) in Nottingham.  When Robin and his small band of fun-loving friends (who are pretending to be knights) reach Nottingham, they find a village under the thumb of a tyrannical sheriff. Robin delivers the sword, falls for the brave Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett, as marvelous as ever) -- wife of the dead knight he’s been impersonating -- and soon becomes involved in efforts to help his country defeat the French, which involves attempting to obtain a promise from England’s ineffective new monarch, King John (Oscar Isaac), concerning liberty for each of his subjects.  

Amid all the battle hubbub and archery antics, Crowe manages to make us believe his character is a man of thought as well as action. This Robin starts out interested primarily in survival, then realizes there’s more at stake for him and his country. Crowe’s performance is a bit underplayed, but the lack of bravado seems appropriate here, for Robin is unsure about his own history. I’m impressed with the strength, courage, and charisma projected by Crowe in this particular role. Plus I love the way his romantic scenes with Blanchett come across as so tender, sexy and amusing.         

Kudos also to the actors portraying villains in this Robin Hood: Oscar Isaac (The Nativity Story) as Prince John, Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) as Godfrey, and Matthew MacFadyen (Pride & Prejudice) as the Sheriff of Nottingham. We love to hate all three of them – but MacFadyen even evokes a few laughs because of the Sheriff’s pretentious behavior.  

Among Robin’s merry men, the stand-outs are Kevin Durand (Legion) as Little John and Mark Addy (The Full Monty) as Friar Tuck. Both look their parts as well as add a touch of humor to the serious nature of this cinematic adventure. 

So – did we need another Robin Hood film? I think there’ve been at least five others, including Mel Brooks’ hilarious Men in Tights. After watching this Ridley Scott prequel to the legendary Robin Hood exploits, my answer is a resounding YES.

(Released by Universal Studios and rated “PG-13” for violence, including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content.)

For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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