Robin Hood
directed by John Irvin
(Fox, 1991)

Robin Hood has come to the big screen in many ways and with many faces. Errol Flynn in 1938 remains the classic, although it is a little dated by modern standards. Kevin Costner starred in a big-budget 1991 version, notable for an outstanding Alan Rickman as an over-the-top sheriff but otherwise fairly forgettable. (If you're lucky.) I've seen most of them, and the best by far is Robin Hood, directed by John Irvin and likewise released in 1991.

Patrick Bergin is a dynamic Robin Hood, hitting the mark with the perfect mix of arrogance, compassion, charm and devil-may-care, hell-bent glory-seeking. Sure, there's a list of noble reasons why Robin Hood takes to the forest to fight Norman oppression and protect the unfortunate Saxon serfs from tyranny. But let's face it, Robin is a hero who enjoys what he does. He loves nothing more than laughing at danger and tweaking the nose of authority. It's easy to see that Bergin enjoyed the part, and his pleasure translates to the screen, making it an enjoyable romp for viewers.

Bergin shares Sherwood with a fine cast. Uma Thurman is a surprisingly strong Marian. Owen Teale is an excellent, fun-loving Will Scarlett, and David Morrissey is the best Little John I've seen yet. Jeff Nuttall is also a picture-perfect Friar Tuck. On the Norman side, Jurgen Prochnow is the malicious knight, Sir Miles Folcanet, who pursues Robin through the forest, and Jeroen Krabbe is Baron Daguerre, a greedy lord with a conscience. There's a brief, but impressive, appearance of Edward Fox as the would-be King John.

The movie boasts excellent swordplay, good costuming, authentic-sounding accents (Are you listening, Kevin?) and some great pagan symbolism.

This film also has immense respect for the history behind the legend. While we may not know much about the real Robin Hood -- if there even was one -- we do know a lot about the time period in question, and Irvin keeps his cameras focused on the truth of feudal Britain. This is a Robin Hood I can believe in without reservation.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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