Arriving just in time to win a place among the year’s worst films, Robin Hood — bursting with an entitled sense of its own non-existent coolness — falls flat on its fat one. It’s the umpteenth version of the heroic outlaw story, once more taking on the merry man that Kevin Costner played like a surfer dude in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and a glum Russell Crowe sucked the life out of in his 2010 downer. Still, this new Robin, played by Taron Egerton, is so bad he doesn’t just make you long for Errol Flynn’s dashing, definitive 1938 swashbuckler. You’d settle for Sinatra in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Or even the farcical Mel Brooks parody, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Anything but this.
The 2018 take is an origin story geared to millennials and memorable only for its gargantuan god-awfulness; seriously, how hard do you have to work to make a movie without a single redeeming feature? Egerton, so good in the Kingsman films, finds himself buried under a big-ass rock of a script by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly that squashes all the actors, including the great Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s the lawman, in a ploy to steal Robin’s riches, who sends spoiled, bratty Sir Robin of Loxley away from Marian (Eve Hewson), the maid he’s bonking, and off to fight the Crusades in Arabia. Luckily, Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as Yahya, shows up as an Islamic warrior who helps out Robin in a pinch. (Lucky for Robin, that is. Not for Foxx.)
That’s right: It’s Robin of Arabia (!) as director Otto Bathurst, calamitously channeling Guy Ritchie, makes sure every arrow hits an artery and every explosion sounds like a bomb, like some kind of medieval Hurt Locker. The Iraq war parallels are meant to seem oh-so-modern. It’s sad, sad, sad to see Bathurst, whose skills were manifested marvelously in the pilot of Black Mirror and the first season of Peaky Blinders, struggle so vainly to find his footing.
The plot, such as it is, kicks in when “The Hood” (don’t you love his new name?) returns home to Nottingham after four years to find his manor ransacked, the sheriff stealing from the poor and Marian in the bed of Will Scarlet, a rabble-rouser played by Jamie “Fifty Shades” Dornan. (No one gets whipped this time, alas — just the audience). The two have zero chemistry, so it’s hard to understand why Robin — sorry, The Hood — gets so worked up about them hooking up. With no sex in his future, our hero leaps into chaotic action with his new bestie Yahya, who’s now known as Little John to further fuel the origin story. Just don’t expect any Sherwood Forest, merry men or bright colors. Nottingham is a mining town where soot is a fashion statement.
Bathurst crowds the film with incoherent action and countless backstories, including one for Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin). Meanwhile, Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham shows up as a Cardinal to underscore the avarice of the Catholic Church. And did you know that the sheriff, as a boy, had been diddled by priests? The more Robin Hood strives for this-just-in relevance, the more it seems hopelessly old-hat. Friar Tuck begins the movie with a directive to “forget history, forget what you think you know, forget what you’ve heard before.” You’d be better off remembering not to waste your cash on this toxic Thanksgiving turkey.