Directed by John Irvin
Written by John McGrath and Mark Allen Smith
Starring: Patrick Bergin, Uma Thurman, Jeroen Krabbe, Jurgen Prochnow, Owen Teale, Edward Fox, Daniel Webb, Jeff Nuttall
Yet another re-telling of the legend of Robin Hood. Robert Hoad (Bergin) is a Saxon noble man who offends one of the ruling Norman noblemen Sir Miles Focanet (Prochnow). When he refuses to take the required punishment for this offense he and friend Will Scarlett (Teale) are outlawed and flee to the forest to hide. They meet up and join with a gang of bandits - Robert quickly becoming their leader under the name Robin Hood. Under Robin's leadership the gang proceed to become highly successful thieves, and in doing so gain a reputation as the peoples heroes fighting the tyranical Norman's. This greatly angers the feudal ruler - and Robin's former friend - Baron Daguerre (Krabbe), who does his best to capture Robin. Meanwhile Robin has fallen in love with Daguerre's niece, the Maid Marian (Thurman) who is doomed to an arranged marriage with Focanet.
This is as good a telling of the story of Robin Hood as you're likely to find. John Irvin's version is immediately much more realistic than the norm, as well as being a good deal more entertaining. A lot of thought and attention to detail was obviously put into it with a story that is much more complex than the simple good verses evil which is usually given. But that doesn't stop the film from remaining a rollicking adventure as well.
This Robin Hood is set in the environment of a muddy and dank English winter, creating a rather gloomy tone to the film. The people are innitially downcast and unhappy. There are the heavy political overtones of an England in change enveloping the film as well. The Saxon's are naturally discontent with being treated as second class citizens by the currently ruling Norman's - who had recently conquested the isles from mainland Europe. It's this refusal to bow down to the Norman's that forces Robert's friend Daguerre to outlaw him.
The rather fanciful "rob from the rich and give to the poor" cliche is played down nicely in this version. Robin's initial thieving exploits are only an effort to make a fool of Daguerre and Focanet. It's only when a price is put on his head that Will Scarlett convinces Robin too pay off the common lands people to keep them on his side. Rather than being mere theives however, Robin and his band of men are presented more as resitance fighters.
Not only is this version dramatically superior, but it's also great fun. There's an ironic vein of humor running through the script as well as a wonderful collection of colorful characters performed with great gusto by a well assembled cast.
Patrick Bergin delivers a suprisingly great Robin Hood. He handles all the dramatic, comedic and physical elements of the part well. He and his band of thieves make a point of being merry too, which is something that a lot of versions simply forget to do. It is Robin Hood and his "merry" men after all.
Uma Thurman plays Maid Marian as a fiery, spirited woman who is moved by what the Saxon's are fighting for. Jurgen Prochnow gives an appropriately dastardly performance as the obvious bad guy. His over-the-top death scene is great fun. Edward Fox makes a terrific cameo as Prince John, playing him with a slightly mad twinge. Jeff Nuttall deserves special mention for his wonderfully wicked portrayal of Friar Tuck.
Robin Hood really is a wonderfully put together movie that I would highly recommended to all.
Uma invests Marian with an untraditional but welcome headstrong attitude. It was an early example of her ability to avoid the obvious route with a character and deliver more layers of interest than might otherwise be there. She turns in a a very solid performance, and along with everyone else in the film it's a fairly stagy one.
She may be playing Marian but blessedly Uma has more to do than just be a love interest. At one stage she dresses up as 'Martin' in order to enter Robin's camp incognito. This didn't strike me as particularly realistic but it's a fun segment none the less. Her best scene is one where she's kicking up a fuss about marrying Focanet. She dominates the scene with great poise and authority. It certainly is a solid entry into Uma's body of work.
Incidentally this was the first film I can remember seeing Uma in, many years ago. It wasn't until a couple of years later that she began to make a larger impression on me however.