Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
1991, PG-13, 143 min. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 21, 1991
The only redistribution of wealth engaged in by this Robin Hood occurs at the box office when you hand over your money for admission. What a large scale mess this is. It's not surprising. All the advance reports indicated that this was one troubled production -- with something like seven producers chasing around protecting some $50 million worth of investment, a race to completion between three simultaneously filming Robin Hood projects that all appeared by some mysterious congruence that foretold the summer of '91 to be the summer for Robin Hood, not to mention England's notoriously hospitable weather ripe for sunny location shooting, as well as a ridiculously short pre-production and shooting schedule for a swashbuckling actioner. So, although no one's really surprised that the final result is less than spectacular, the extent to which it bombs certainly does come as a surprise. The film is photographed most peculiarly in predominating close-ups -- you've got to admit that's an odd approach to capturing an action story. And it certainly doesn't help the film's basic problem of making clear who's doing what to whom at any given point. Moreover, the film has a downright murky look that makes it hard at times to clearly see exactly what's going on. That Costner wasn't able to nail an authentic English accent would only be a minor quibble if one weren't so distracted by the variety of accents his Robin Hood mouths. Characters are imbued with interesting traits and then left simmering undeveloped: Maid Marian is part feminist, part doe-eyed damsel in distress; Will Scarlett harbors a dark secret though its disclosure provides little emotional release; Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham is played as an unredeemingly loathsome Grinch Who Stole Christmas whose intensity seems part of another movie entirely. But more disturbing is the degree of violence depicted throughout (with special note given to the most offensive rape scene I've witnessed in a film in quite some time). This is a movie to think about twice before bringing the kids to see. In fact, you've already seen this movie's best stuff in the coming attraction trailer: that twirling jet propulsion arrow hurtling through Sherwood Forest. Only in the final climactic scenes of Robin Hood does the movie begin to approach such zestful force. Errol Flynn can rest in peace.