Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a classic 90s blockbuster. It has great action, perfectly timed humour, doesn’t take itself too seriously and feels the right amount of epic, even with a great pop song as part of the marketing. It even has a very good leading man as Robin Hood but while Kevin Costner is undoubtedly a movie mega-star, he is also the weakest aspect of the whole movie.
This isn’t apparent from the beginning though. In fact, this feels like as authentic a Robin Hood film as you can get. Beginning in the Middle East as a Crusader and returning to a desolate homeland ruled by the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham, this is a Robin Hood following the classic beats of all the other Robin Hood movies put together. We have the fight over the water with Little John, the Merry Men in Sherwood Forest, the archery, the sword fights and the romantic story with Maid Marian. It is all here and presented in blockbuster, big budget fashion.
The cast supports this too. Morgan Freeman assists Robin as Azeem, a man he saves in Jerusalem while the Merry Men are all classic British actors, from Michael McShane as Friar Tuck to Nick Brimble as Little John. Although Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio gets little to do as Marian, she is an effective love interest and a perfect damsel-in-distress. The real casting coup though is Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Rickman isn’t playing the Sheriff as the calculating, cold villain we saw in Die Hard but rather as a pantomime villain with edge. He is loud, abrasive, venomous with his lines and a delight to watch. This is a Robin Hood film starring Kevin Costner but Rickman is by far the best actor in the whole movie and gets the best lines, scenes and most memorable moments.
This isn’t helped by the fact that Costner plays it all too seriously. The film knows its ridiculous and everyone from Freeman to Rickman plays it accordingly but there is a earnest seriousness to Costner which can jar with the rest of the film and sometimes take you out of the whole experience. Costner is a decent action star, and suits Robin Hood very well, but he also lacks the charisma and charm the character needs and you can’t help but feel the character is a bit of a bore.
The film is never boring though and fills its generous runtime with sword fights, explosions, intense romantic moments and some fairly decent sub-plots, even one concerning a randomly cast Christian Slater as Will Scarlett.
Overall, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is as close to what a “proper” Robin Hood film should be. Sword fights, Merry Men and a tongue firmly in its cheek, playing the absurdity of the tale with the right amount of seriousness. All but Costner though, who plays a great Robin Hood but doesn’t seem to fit in his own film at times.
Rating – 4
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