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  Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Me And My Arrow
Year: 1991
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Stars: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brian Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Soo Druet, Daniel Newman, Daniel Peacock, Jack Wild, Derek Deadman, Sean Connery
Genre: Action, Romance, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 1194, and King Richard the Lionheart has embarked on the Crusades in the Middle East, taking countless soldiers with him to their doom. They include English nobleman Robin of Loxley (Kevin Costner) who has met an unfortunate fate as he is chained to a wall in a dungeon in Jerusalem, now being threatened with having his hand cut off by his gaolers for a perceived slight against their society. However, just as the act is to be carried out Robin pulls a trick which sees him and his companion overpower the guards, and a chance to escape arises. One Islamic prisoner, Azeem (Morgan Freeman) also assists, and all three make a break for it...

It's not the obvious way to open a Robin Hood movie, but by 1991 there had been so many variations it was not as if there was a hard and fast way to do it anyway. Rest assured, before long we were back in Merrie England via some dodgy geography, for one of the most popular in its day but latterly much-maligned Hollywood takes on the old, old folk tale of Medieval heroism in the face of some utter scoundrels, and Mr Costner was your man to guide you through it in one of the movies of his heyday before it all slipped away after the Waterworld debacle. Here, on the other hand, he could do no wrong: watch Kev in an uncomplicated yarn of derring-do? Yes, please, said the globe's filmgoers.

But in Britain, the movie was treated somewhere between affection, however begrudging, and outright disdain for the Hollywoodisation of a beloved legend. You didn't hear such grumbles about the Errol Flynn classic version, but likely enough time had passed for any criticism of inaccuracies to be redundant, as 1991 it wasn't exactly a vintage year for blockbusters. This was definitely one of the biggest moneymakers, and when something gets that big there are always going to be those taking against it, but in the U.K. there was a reason apart from the movie itself, and that was its theme song, Everything I Do I Do It For You by Bryan Adams, staying at the number one position in the pop charts for a record-breaking sixteen weeks, by which time most of the population were royally sick of it. Like Paul McCartney's Mull of Kintyre, you still don't hear it that often now because everyone had quite enough of it at the time, no matter the quality.

Another issue that continually comes up in relation to this Robin Hood was Costner's accent, and not only his: he wasn't even trying to sound English, they cry. But the truth was, he could do an English accent, the trouble was with his less than basso profundo tones they decided he sounded rather effeminate, so that idea was swiftly dispatched with - what the likes of Christian Slater's excuse was is anyone's guess. Then again, when did a movie depicting a historical era on this budget ever go in for complete faithfulness to its source? If you took this for what it was, a rollicking adventure set by contrast in pleasingly earthen tones of grey, green and brown, then there were elements to enjoy, such as Alan Rickman as The Sheriff of Nottingham, stealing the show as the exuberantly vicious and conniving villain, setting a benchmark for the role for all time.

Something he capitalised on was less a pantomime aspect, and one more indebted to the horror movie, as director Kevin Reynolds embraced a more macabre style than previous Robin Hoods with its violence and thematically darker scenes (the movie had to be significantly cut for a PG rating in the U.K. where it probably shouldn't have been). There was a witch character for a start, played by Geraldine McEwan with more range than that might suggest, and the grand finale featured an attempted rape, which with any other actor than Rickman would probably have been a lot more offensive than it turned out to be. Freeman's inclusion might have been questionable to the purists, but he rose to the occasion as an excellent sidekick, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio made you lament the way her Maid Marian was neglected for much of the second half. All in all, it might have been nonsense, but it was enjoyable nonsense, paving the way for a renewed interest in historical epics for decades to come, including the inevitable and inferior Robin Hood in 2010. Music by Michael Kamen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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