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Robin Hood's Arrows Don't Hit the Target

In yet another Hollywood redo of "Robin Hood," the arrows fly with a lot more gusto than we remember from the Errol Flynn days, even if they aren't as straight and true.

This is the fourth collaboration between director Ridley Scott and the burly Russell Crowe (from the Oscar-winning "Gladiator" to "Body of Lies"), and their newest teaming is another costumed epic that somehow wows and bores us as at the same time.

In 1192, Robin Longstride (Crowe) is an archer in King Richard the Lionheart's army, which has returned from the Crusades to find England in chaos.

After a testy encounter with the king (Danny Huston), Robin and his small band of brothers become outlaws. They escape during a siege (which Scott knows how to film with plenty of zeal), and Robin assumes the identity of a dead soldier to flee to Nottingham.

There he meets Lady Marian Loxley (Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett), the widow of that dead soldier, and of course, the whiff of romance begins to swirl above all that muddied ground.

Meanwhile, political intrigue is rising at the king's castle. Richard is killed in the siege, and his younger and evil-minded brother John assumes the throne. With the help of one of his equally evil soldiers (played by villain du jour Mark Strong of "Sherlock Holmes" and "Kick-Ass"), the king immediately raids his own townspeople in an effort to fill his coffers.

Certainly, this isn't the men-in-tights treatment of the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest. This "Robin Hood" is grittier, darker, muddier and more robust than versions that have passed through Tinseltown before. In fact, this is a Robin who steals from the rich all right, but he keeps the gold for himself.

Crowe, who by now is an expert at playing the strong, silent and noble hero of historical dramas, offers a dependable turn as Robin, but his portrayal is getting tiresome, as he's playing essentially the same character he has in other, better movies.

Scott is no stranger to historical blockbusters. With other films such as "Gladiator" and "Kingdom of Heaven," the British director knows how to stage epic battles with hundreds of charging men and blankets of flying arrows blotting out the sun.

The climactic scene in "Robin Hood," where the French army clashes with the English army and Robin's men on the beach, is another staggering, visually epic arena of swords and shields (minus the blood, to retain a PG-13 audience).

Yet all the drudgery of a bloated story, coupled with a pale romance between Robin and Marian, fills up a lot of screen time before Robin gets to that exciting finale.

Scott and Crowe clearly want to create a Robin Hood character who has grown up and become more palatable for our times, and they have. But if he's going to steal from the rich and give to the poor, he ought to do it with a lot more zest.




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