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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
1991 - PG-13 - 143 Mins.
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Producer: Pen Densham, John Watson
Written By: Pen Densham, John Watson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Sean Connery, Michael Wincott
Review by: Carl Langley
   
The story of Robin Hood was originally a children's fable. Many kids grew up digesting the story about the local hero who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' in no such shape or form is meant for kids. The film is violent, frequently melancholic, and flickers every indecent act a young adolescent should never consider attempting. Unfortunately, that is not the main problem. While this version of the classic tale adds a little bite, choosing the star proved to be the biggest headache. Grab your frickin' Advil - Kevin Costner is Robin Hood.

Costner's previous cinema exhibitions prior to 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' had been unfailingly successful. He was a minor league catcher/mentor in 'Bull Durham,' a cop hunting down the mighty Al Capone in 'The Untouchables,' and a crackpot farmer building a baseball diamond in his cornfield in 'Field of Dreams.' These three had immediate impact in Hollywood and are considered by many to be classics in their own genres.

But let's also confront the unsaid: Costner's performances never reached the full potential he has as a thespian. How can Costner be horrible in so many spectacular flicks? Because he was involved; his knack for unearthing clever screenplays and front-lining them to success was uncanny (expectedly, though, his choices of late have been nothing but putrid). After three films behind the camera - the amazingly powerful 'Dances with Wolves,' the miscalculated 'The Postman,' and the lost 'Open Range' - Costner, much like Clint Eastwood, fairs better controlling the show in the director's chair.

Why ramble about Costner's film career? You are probably thinking this is supposed to be a review on Kevin Reynolds's 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,' not some mini-biography on Costner. Well Costner a good portion of influence on this film; his determination to use an American accent was the worst decision for the film. But you cannot help but think that he had more to do with it.

The film does succeed in what it sets out to accomplish - it tells the story of the man who robbed the rich, preserved King Richard's land, and married Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Add a few battle sequences, a few stimulating scenes (such as the infamous slow-motion fire arrow), and a Bryan Adams song, and your result should be the traditional summer popcorn flick. I grew up with the legend of Robin Hood and this film, so it holds a key to a certain treasure in my heart. Only when I matured in my cinematic viewing tastes did I see how awful Costner is and how awfully good he looks in his movies.

For those unfamiliar with the story, let me recap. Robin of Locksley and his Moorish friend Azeem (Morgan Freeman) escape from a Middle Eastern prison during the Crusades and head back to Robin's home in England. Azeem is obliged to tag along as Robin saved his life.

Unfortunately their timing could not be worse as they return amid the nasty Sheriff's of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) transition to iron-clad and brutal rule of the local countryside. After discovering his father murdered and his castle burnt, Robin seeks revenge and joins the exiled local villagers in Sherwood Forest as their leader. He gains their trust by robbing the rich for them and taking the law into his own hands, banding together to rid the evil of Nottingham.

Besides Costner's laughably atrocious performance, everyone else seems fit in their role, or maybe they seem like Laurence Olivier in every scene they share with the lead. Morgan Freeman is always dauntingly effective; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio overreacts here and there; and even Christian Slater as Will Scarlet hits the sparing right note. Standing head and shoulders above the rest of the cast is Alan Rickman. He is perfect in the role as a snotty, devious, and droll villain with flair. The roll of his eyes, the tone of his voice, and the timing of his mannerisms are something to watch. When he is off-screen, we anticipate his return.

Kevin Reynolds directed this motion picture and has since used this experience for other period pieces with the same visual and thematic styles (i.e. 'Rapa Nui' and 'The Count of Monte Cristo'). Even though he is barely able to amass the legendary feeling in 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,' I cannot look past the portrayal given by Costner in the most pivotal role of the film. The direction feels out of Reynolds's grasp and one can't help but think he couldn't rein in Costner's performance.

All in all, this film would not be worth seeing for the first time if you're over fifteen. The 1939 version starring Errol Flynn would be a much better choice. I am glad I was nine when I saw this movie and I am desperately trying to savor the memories I still have intact.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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