Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood is a Robin of wood. Murky and uninspired, this $50 million rendition bears evidence of the rushed and unpleasant production circumstances that were much reported upon. At the same time, this seriously intended, more realistically motivated revision of the Robin myth may have diminished the hero, but it hasn’t destroyed him.
Lackluster script, from a story by Pen Densham, begins in the year 1194 in Jerusalem, where Robin leads a prison uprising and escapes with a Moor, Azeem (Morgan Freeman). Retreating from the Crusades, the pair head for England, where they find that Robin’s father has been slain by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman), who is attempting to eliminate all resistance and perhaps make a play for the throne in the absence of King Richard.
To avenge his father’s death, Robin joins up with Little John and the latter’s band of outsiders in a safe enclave in Sherwood Forest. Major setpiece is the sheriff’s attack on the outlaws’ hippie-like compound, which decimates the group. But Robin is able to lead a counterattack on Nottingham Castle.
The best that can be said for Costner’s performance is that it is pleasant. At worst, it can be argued whether it is more properly described as wooden or cardboard.
Looking beautiful and sporting an accent that comes and goes, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio makes a sprightly, appropriately feisty Marian. Of the Americans, Christian Slater is most successful at putting on an English accent, and he has some spirited moments as Will Scarlett.
As the ‘painted man’ who accompanies Robin in gratitude for his life having been saved, Freeman is a constant, dominant presence. As the sheriff, Rickman goes way over the top, emoting with facial and vocal leers. It’s a relief whenever this resourceful thesp is on-screen, such is the energy and brio he brings to the proceedings. An unbilled Sean Connery shows up at the very end as King Richard to give his blessing to Robin and Marian’s marriage.
1991: Nomination: Best Original Song (‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’)