Ten years after GLADIATOR, Director RIDLEY SCOTT re-teams with RUSSELL CROWE to bring new light to the oft filmed Robin Hood legend.
Robin Long stride (CROWE), an archer in the Crusader army of Richard The Lionheart (DANNY HUSTON), is disgraced for brawling with Little John (KEVIN DURAND). The two men face punishment but then the King is killed by a French bowman and in the ensuring confusion both Robin and John escape with the aid of accomplices Will Scarlet (SCOTT GRIMES) and Allan Adayle (ALAN DOYLE).
A small detachment of English knights led by the loyal Sir Robert Loxley (DOUGLAS HODGE) is dispatched to return the crown to England. They fall victim to a cunning French ambush overseen by English traitor, Sir Godfrey (MARK STRONG) and massacred to a man. Robin and his small band manage to chase off the French. While looking for plunder they find the mortally wounded Sir Robert who begs they return the crown and, on a personal note, return the Loxley sword to Sir Walter Loxley in Nottingham.
Robin reluctantly agrees but soon sees this as the ideal way to travel home. Disguised as the fallen English knights, the small band have no problem securing a ship. Their plan is to disembark on the southern English shores but the ship instead carries them directly up the Thames to London where Robin, if his ruse is still to work, must personally hand over the crown to the new King John (OSCAR ISAAC).
Duty bound, he then heads for Nottingham and returns the sword to the kind, but now old and blind, Sir Walter (MAX VON SYDOW). Here he meets Friar Tuck (MARK ADDY) and the feisty Lady Marion (CATE BLANCHETT), the widow of Sir Robert who at first despises the new visitor to her land.
The Loxley Estate is in financial difficulties and the devious Sheriff Of Nottingham (MATTHEW MACFADYEN) wishes to claim both the land and Marion for himself. To help stall him, Sir Walter persuades Robin to temporarily impersonate the late Sir Robert until the Estate is back on a secure footing.
King John proves a weak and incompetent ruler who not only sacks his trusted and experienced advisor William Marshal (WILLIAM HURT) but antagonizes the Barons to such a degree with his raised taxes and unscrupulous methods that they rebel under the leadership of Baron Baldwin (ROBERT PUGH). Worse, he learns Sir Godfrey is indeed a traitor who has now fled to France where he instructs the ambitious King Philip (JONATHAN ZACCAI) that England is ripe for invasion.
This Robin Hood legend is a far cry from the early ERROL FLYNN and even much later KEVIN COSTNER versions. Scenes in Sherwood Forest are few - explained in the final reel of the film - and Robin himself is an opportunist with a forgotten past.
The 12th Century settings are captured perfectly, as are the authentic looking costumes. Much effort has gone into the production and while less CGI is used than in GLADIATOR, here the scale is naturally smaller and the storyline more character orientated. There are several well-realised action scenes, the largest when the French army attempts to land on the English coast in landing craft (which seems to be inspired by SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) and while it can be argued the attack is beaten off too easily, the battles are at least brutal looking and realistic.
The acting throughout is excellent. Various accents abound - all the French dialogue is subtitled - but thankfully no American ones!
Included are the Theatrical release (two hours and twenty minutes) and the superior Directors Cut with fifteen extra minutes plus a wealth of Special Features including cut scenes, trailers and hundreds of production photographs.
All in all then, a great retelling of an old legend!