Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Genre: Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 23 min.

Release Date: June 14th, 1991 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Kevin Reynolds Actors: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Brian Blessed, Michael Wincott, Geraldine McEwan

 


 

A

ridiculous assortment of big-name cast members, extreme over-actors, and swashbuckling mayhem, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” is an unquestionably unique adaptation of the classic tale. Several lesser-known characters and concepts make an appearance to skew the familiarity, while a large amount of seriousness and suspense is replaced by utter goofiness – most notably toward the conclusion. The result is a calamity of underdeveloped and discordant ideas; half the film is marginally entertaining and the rest is pure schlock.

Robin of Locksley/Robin Hood (Kevin Costner) sets out to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman). Along the way, he meets mysterious warrior Azeem (Morgan Freeman) and unites the victimized townsfolk and the thieves of Sherwood Forest to fight back against the sheriff’s villainy. Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) swoons while the revolting witch Mortianna (Geraldine McEwan) predicts the future to aid in the crooked official’s plot to destroy Hood and his relatively merry men.

Downright awe-inspiring, slow-motion sequences featuring Kevin Costner launching flaming arrows speckle the otherwise sparse and occasionally boring storyline. The film is a little too slow and long to be lagging on the action. It appears as if director Kevin Reynolds (“Rapa Nui,” “Waterworld”) was trying to focus mainly on telling a different version of the famous legend, which becomes convoluted and just unrecognizable enough that audiences will occasionally wonder whether this is a take on Robin Hood at all.

“Call off Christmas!” Perhaps a precursor to Johnny Depp’s drunken and flamboyant Jack Sparrow (from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series), Alan Rickman’s sheriff prances about ostentatiously, barking orders and carrying out degrading acts with his hideous sorceress accomplice and his overemphasizing cousin, Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott, who always plays this same, very strange part). Often considered one of the best contemporary movie villains, the sheriff’s initially dastardly guise is cast off toward the conclusion in favor of a pathetically laughable display. Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman’s Azeem is a curiously unique Robin Hood character, manufactured solely for this adaptation. As a major sidekick, he also has to share the screen with Friar Tuck (Michael McShane), Little John (Nick Brimble), and Will Scarlet (Christian Slater), further stunting the pacing.

The biggest shock throughout the picture is the continually shifting tone – fueled by bizarre additives entirely foreign to standard interpretations. The film opens with tortured prisoners getting their hands lopped off and ends with the sheriff trying to rape Marion (in a bizarrely comical, fully-clothed fashion) as Mortianna commands him to give her a grandchild. Another aspect not often exploited in conventional versions is the use of Viking-like warriors to attack Hood’s forest-dwelling gang. Apparently, hired barbarians do the dirty work for Nottingham. Even more peculiar is that the iconic archery contest is inexplicably absent. Mel Brooks’ parody “Robin Hood: Men In Tights,” released two years later, perfectly mocks this one-of-a-kind account, making it even more difficult to take “Prince of Thieves” seriously. Had the filmmakers attempted to maintain a regularly adventuresome and dramatic mood, the entire production would have been infinitely more cohesive and fun to watch.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10