Ridley Scott has become the go-to director for historical action movies. They may not always follow history to the letter, but Scott knows how to bring history alive.
His latest epic - and second with Russell Crowe - attempts to take the legend of Robin Hood and ground it in history. Robin Hood isn't as compelling as Gladiator, or as relevant as Kingdom of Heaven, but it still manages to be entertaining.
Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a crusader returning to England with the army of Richard the Lionheart after the Third Crusade. When Richard is killed besieging a French castle, Robin and the beginnings of his band of Merry Men return to an England rife with royal plots and feudal exploitation.
The movie serves as a kind of prequel to the Robin Hood legends that are so famous, and as such all the major characters are there, even if in different forms. Probably the biggest changes are the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden) and Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett). The sheriff's role is pretty minor but by the movie's end, he takes his place as Robin's greatest nemesis. Marion, on the other hand, takes up a larger piece of the narrative, and is more of Robin's equal than a damsel in distress.
Crowe is convincing - if not as engrossing as in Gladiator - as a man fighting for both his country and his freedom, and Blanchett is always fun to watch.
The best part of the movie is the visceral way in which Scott tells the story. It would have been better with an R rating (though it's a safe bet there will be an "unrated" version released on DVD) but despite that, Scott creates a world that feels both authentic, and occasionally familiar.
As a film to steep yourself in, Robin Hood hits pretty near the mark.