New in theatres this Friday: Russell Crowe stars in Ridley Scott‘s action-adventure, Robin Hood; Jay Baruchel plays a reincarnated historical icon in The Trotsky; plus a look at the romantic comedy, Just Wright.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Max Von Sydow, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen
Director: Ridley Scott
Since 1908, Robin Hood has been remade for film and television dozens of times, and has been played by the likes of Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Carey Elwe, to name just a few. Aside from a number of television productions though, it’s been 17 years since the legendary character has appeared in cinemas, and that was Mel Brooks’ comedy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Even after all those years, director Ridley Scott had his work cut out for him. There are very few characters as popular, or as well known as Robin Hood, and for the most part the stories tend toward a glistening view of the past. Few have offered much in the way of grit or realism, mainly because he’s a romanticized figure, seen more often in tights than in anything practical.
That’s what makes Scott’s adventure look promising, as the director went for a much more grounded story with his Robin Hood, rather than the usual fairytale shortcut.
Russell Crowe stars as our 13th century hero who was fighting with King Richard against the French before the monarch died. Travelling to Nottingham, Robin finds the town has been taken over by a corrupt sheriff, played by Matthew Macfadyen, who is living off the backs of the townspeople thanks to a terrible tax. Falling in love with the widowed Lady Marion, played by Cate Blanchett, Robin Hood takes it upon himself to form a pack of mercenaries to steal from the rich and give to the poor villagers in an effort to even out the trouble the Sheriff has caused.
While Scott’s Robin Hood has been criticized for not understanding what it means to be “historically accurate,” the film was geared to make Robin Hood grittier than we’ve seen him before, and we’ve been told to expect at least some level of realism for that era in British history, even if gets quite a few facts wrong.
This is an action movie though, and based on the average reviews the film has earned so far, Robin Hood is not likely to win any Academy Awards, but it is a solid adventure.
“The result is less a Robin Hood story than an epic action movie that sees Crowe at the center of English history at the turn of the 13th century. It’s Gladiator in Sherwood Forest — only, for God’s sake, don’t mention Sherwood Forest either,” wrote Kirk Honeycutt for the Hollywood Reporter.
As that last statement points out, some critics were less than impressed with the ham-fisted way that the script attempts to avoid names and places we’ve all heard countless times over the last few decades. The point was to be new and edgy, but as Karina Longworth of the Village Voice wrote, that didn’t win her over.
“The directorial choices are, for the most part, so lazy, the blockbuster engineering so blatant, that Robin Hood often falls into self-parody,” Longworth wrote.
Still, if all you want is to see some action, people running around castles, and a bit of sword play, this is the film for you this week.
Also opening this weekend is writer and director Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky, which premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Starring Jay Baruchel as Leon Bronstein, the film is a unique teen comedy about a Montreal high school student who might just be the reincarnation of the Soviet and Red Army hero, Leon Trotsky.
Getting into trouble for planning a hunger strike at his family’s clothing factory, the story revolves around Leon’s quest to uplift the students at his school and fulfil his quest to help change the world.
Reviewers were very kind to the film, which also appeared at the Tribeca film festival, where Scott Weinberg of Cinematical.com praised the comedy.
“Certainly one of the best indie comedies I’ve seen in a while,” Weinberg wrote, “The Trotsky also boasts some great support from non-star Canadians… an apt and energetic soundtrack, and a spark of witty confidence that most ‘high school comedies’ don’t even bother with.”
In the romantic comedy Just Wright, rapper Common plays injured NBA all-star Scott McKnight, who is working with tough-love therapist Leslie Wright, played by Queen Latifah, to get back into the game. When Leslie starts falling for Scott though, the two will have to see if they can make it work, while still getting Scott back on the court.
Receiving fairly dismal reviews, Just Wright is not at the top of any critic’s list this weekend, and might be better enjoyed a bit later on DVD.
As Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times wrote, “Latifah has too much personality for this drivel and Common doesn’t have enough.”