DVD Tuesday: ‘Robin Hood’ on Blu-ray & ‘Killshot’

by W. Andrew Powell

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Out this week on Blu-ray, Kevin Costner stars in one of his last good films, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Plus, on DVD, Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke star in the adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Killshot; Renée Zellweger is off to the boonies for the romantic comedy New in Town; and aliens attack the Vikings in the B-movie extravaganza, Outlander.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves [Blu-ray]
Once upon a time, Kevin Costner was one of the biggest actors in Hollywood. For anyone under 30, this might sound like a joke, but it’s true, and one of his top films was most certainly Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Costner’s star got a little tarnished after the disaster that was Waterworld, followed by The Postman, but Robin Hood certainly left its mark.

Looking back at the 1991 film today there is no question that it’s no Dances with Wolves. That film won multiple Oscars, including Best Director for Costner, and a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. The best Robin Hood could manage was an Oscar nomination for Original Song, and it lost to Beauty and the Beast.

After a number of years where I essentially forgot the film existed, I found myself watching it again this past weekend and I can’t help but question how the film did so well to begin with. Was Bryan Adams’ song really that good, or did we have much lower expectations in the 90s?

Starring Costner as Robin Hood, with Morgan Freeman as the Moor Azeem, the story takes place a few years after the Crusades ended and Robin is holed up in a Jerusalem prison where he and his friend Peter are about to be executed. Escaping with Azeem, Robin returns to England where he discovers a foul plot by the Sheriff of Nottingham, played with evil glee by Alan Rickman, to take over the kingdom from King Richard I, who went missing during the war.

This sets into motion Robin’s plan to help a small group of villagers living in Sherwood forest fight back, while stealing from the Sheriff to help the commoners of the kingdom.

The film is no doubt amusing at times, and the action is well-staged, but the acting is literally atrocious. Even Freeman, one of my all-time favorite actors, has trouble with the terrible script, and is almost comically awful as this Muslim hero. Christian Slater as Will Scarlet and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian are about the only decent actors in the entire film, although Rickman is so over the top that you can’t help but enjoy him as this dastardly villain.

Showing off what Blu-ray is all about, Robin Hood is not the best example of what the technology can do, mainly because the original film stock just doesn’t hold up very well. Some outdoor scenes are incredibly grainy, and I even noticed one early scene with Freeman where the hill behind the star is in focus, rather than his face. That’s not to say that the transfer is bad, but after so many years I think I made the film out to be of a higher calibre than it really was. On an HD television this version still outshines the DVD copy though, which is at least the most important thing.

Included extras cover all of the bases, with two commentary tracks, a TV special on the legend of Robin Hood, interviews, the entire score for the film, and a live performance of “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams. Not a bad collection, and some of the segments in the commentary are really entertaining, but I would have liked to see some new material looking back at the film’s popularity or maybe even the impact.

Failing anything else, the film is a window into the 90s, when Costner was a huge star and apparently, we didn’t expect quite as much from our epic adventures.

Also out this week…

Elmore Leonard’s crime drama about a mafia hitman should have been a big hit if you consider the cast, but it came and left theatres faster than you can say bad adaptation.

The film stars Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke, and Thomas Jane in a story about a woman who inadvertently gets caught up in the affairs of a mafia hitman.

Many reviewers called the film a mess, mainly due to years worth of editing and post-production, but Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic had one good thing to say, “It’s ultimately Rourke who makes the film worth watching.”

New in Town
What happens when a high-paid, big shot business woman has to leave Miami and travel to the back woods of America? Another bland romantic comedy.

Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. star in this silly, soppy rom-com, with Connick playing Ted, your average union boss trying to protect his company from closure by Zellweger’s tough-as-nails Lucy.

Of course, for every ten films like this, there are only one or two good ones, and based on critical reaction, New in Town is entirely skippable.

“Because every development in New in Town is so predictable, so reminiscent of other, better romantic comedies, it actually seems longer than it is,” wrote Joe Leydon of Variety.

And in this weird alien-on-Earth action movie, James Caviezel and Ron Perlman play Vikings trying to survive the attack of a killer otherworldly “predator.”

“Sadly,” Dominic Wells of the UK’s Times wrote, “the kooky premise of Outlander solidifies quickly into formula: monster is fought, fair maiden won, kingship gained and past errors redeemed with no real surprises along the way.”

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