Sunday 21 April 2024

Netflix And Chill: Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)

There are many things to remember about Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, things that help you to forget other aspects of it. You probably remember Alan Rickman stealing most of the movie. You should remember the monster hit song from Bryan Adams. There's the "arrow-cam" shots. And, for better or worse, Kevin Costner in the lead role. You may well remember all of the fun you had with it, intentional or not, but you might forget what a slog it can be at times, the wildly varying quality of the acting, and how it generally fails in any attempt to be a proper swashbuckling action flick for modern audiences.

Both terrible and fantastic in equal measure, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves is a film I hadn't revisited since owning it on VHS. It's one that kept randomly popping into my head though, especially when discussing Alan Rickman with a work colleague and trying to deliver amusing impressions of his iconic cinematic villain roles. I kept wondering if it was actually any good, particularly when I wasn't too won over by it back when that song had spent months dominating the British music charts.

The plot is secondary to the stars and the set-pieces. Everyone knows a bit about Robin Hood, especially if they have seen the classic Errol Flynn movie, or the animated Disney flick. He robbed from the rich to give to the poor, and he was the enemy of the greedy and conniving Sheriff Of Nottingham (played here by Rickman, of course). He had a band of merry men, and he had some chemistry with a woman named Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio embodying her this time around). 

Written by Pen Densham and John Watson, two people with relatively limited experience (their previous film being one I have long wanted to see, Upworld AKA A Gnome Named Gnorm), and directed by Kevin Reynolds, this is a blockbuster that seems to have become successful through sheer force of will. You have to ignore some of the dodgy accents, you have to just grin while groaning at some of the dialogue (especially the lines uttered by Duncan, played by Walter Sparrow, who could just as easily slot into place in a Monty Python film), and you have to be patient during any scenes that fill time in between the stars being stars.

Costner isn't the best choice for the main role, but he somehow does enough to show why he gained his movie star status. The film belongs to Rickman, thankfully, but not at the expense of our hero, who benefits from his more laidback style being juxtaposed against the brilliant pantomime villain. Mastrantonio does a decent job in a role that tries to balance out the strength of the character with the need to have her in peril, and there's a lot of fun to be had with Morgan Freeman, Nick Brimble, and Mike McShane, the latter two playing Little John and Friar Tuck, respectively. Christian Slater stands out for being miscast in the role of Will Scarlett, but he tries, Michael Wincott is a very good Guy Of Gisborne, and you also get screentime for Geraldine McEwan, Brian Blessed, and a couple of star cameos.

Despite the flaws, and an overly earnest approach to many scenes is one of them, it's easy to see why many can love this. It's a fantastic blockbuster that seems to fall in line with what Costner loves to do: old-fashioned entertainment with just the right blend of drama, romance, and spectacle. You can sneer at it if you like, and I'm sure many do, but it makes up for being a bit of a mess by trying hard at every turn to be a hugely entertaining mess. I may not have loved it back when it was first released, but I cannot help having a soft spot for it now.


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  1. My favorite Robin Hood movie is still Mel Brooks' Men in Tights, which mostly came about thanks to this so some good came from it. The more recent attempts at Robin Hood movies haven't been that great. Russell Crowe was really too dour for Robin Hood and the Taron Egerton one was OK but felt like they were trying to do a superhero movie. I suppose it's only a matter of time before they try again.

    1. Yep. Not seen the Egerton one yet, but I think it may entertain me easily enough (although the ads made me think "Parkour!", which wasn't necessarily a good sign).