Sunday, May 16, 2010

robin hood (r scott, 2010)

Lots of post-Hannibal Ridley has great, Duellists-grade images mixed with the dross, edited by a hacksaw. As with Body of Lies, Robin Hood has a first act that seems confidently and pleasurably unmoored, free of the false gravitas and prestige drama that ends up as the film's undoing. Body's first act plays like a blacker, bloodier Ishtar*, and while Crowe's tiresome/overdrawn nobility plagues his very first moments, there is also a confusion of comedy and gravity that grants a pleasing lack of stability; there's Danny Huston's effortlessly Wellesian (Hustonian!) charisma; and the opening battle is actually quite nicely directed, as is the first scene between Eleanor and her runt son who becomes king, the only Hollywood scene in javelin-hurling distance that illustrates effectively how the personal trumps sound political judgment.

The picture ultimately tanks, in no small part due to the very same oddball King John character (wouldn't announcing him as the runt of his brothers lend the opportunity to deny, rather than confirm, the statement?), but a film by a director who seems trapped by his own producer impulses (which may explain the eccentric Saving Private Ryan homage that frames the final, needless battle) while displaying no small measure of visual and narrative imagination in a small yet recognizable portion of the rest of the film, is miles better than nothing at all.

* That's a compliment, in the likely case that it doesn't register as such.