Taron Egerton Steps Into the Role of Masked Crusader in Forgettable ‘Robin Hood’

Few folklore figures have been given the cinematic treatment as often as Robin Hood, the infamous 13th century noble who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. In this latest film, simply titled “Robin Hood,” Taron Egerton steps into of the role of Robin of Loxley, who is first introduced here as a lover, not a fighter. In the opening scene he is shown accosting a would-be horse thief, who turns out to be local siren Marian (Eve Hewson). Not only does the magnanimous Robin forgive her after learning that she wanted the horse to help a starving friend, he goes a step further, making the bold young woman his lover. For many months the pair live together blissfully in his huge house, but even his privilege cannot save him from draft, thus beginning a hero’s journey that is meant to resonate with 21st century viewer.

Robin soon finds himself on the Arabian peninsula fighting in one of the many Crusades, a series of religious wars that are depicted here as needless, costly conflicts. There, he forms an unlikely alliance with one of his supposed enemies, the Moor Yaha (Jamie Foxx), a.k.a. Little John. The two travel back to England, where Robin discovers that his ancestral home has been confiscated by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn), a power-hungry figure who taxes to death the people under his rule. Robin’s return is a shock to Marian, who learns that reports of his death two years prior was fake news. Unfortunately for him, she is now shacked up with one Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan). Deprived of all the comforts of his former life, Robin, after some pushing from Little John, decides to lead a revolt against the corrupt government, starting with the aforementioned stealing from the rich. After an intense period of training under John, Robin of Loxley transforms into a masked crusader known as “The Hood.” British comic actor Tim Minchin brings in some laughs as Friar Tuck, Robin’s loyal pal and sole representative of the Church who isn’t thoroughly corrupt.

Those looking forward to seeing the level of action one has come to expect from a “Robin Hood” film will not be disappointed in this latest offering from Otto Bathurst, a British director primarily known for his work on television. However, purists will find themselves sorely disappointed, as this modern take on the classic tale means medieval costumes have been traded in sexier dudes, giving the film a more ambiguous feel period-wise. Also, certain characters based on actual historical figures, such as King Richard and Prince John, have been deleted completely. Instead, this streamlined version works hard to find parallels between Robin and his followers to that of the those in the modern American resistance movement. Terms like redistribution of wealth are used, and there’s even some collusion between the governments of enemy countries thrown in.

While there are plenty of cheer-worthy moments here, overall, “Robin Hood” is lacking when it comes to emotional impact. Egerton and Hewson, who have both exhibited impressive range in other projects, seem to phone it in at certain points here. Even their first meeting after his return from the dead falls flat. While it has its moments, this one will most likely not gone down in history as one of the more memorable Robin Hood films.

Robin Hood” opens Nov. 21 nationwide.