You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘mark strong’ tag.

Let me start off by saying this: I’m a fan of King Arthur.

I know, I know, this is Robin Hood.  But I do mean King Arthur.  The one I’m referring to, more specifically, is the 2004 version, directed by Antoine Fuqua with Clive Owen as the title character.  I only saw it once, but I remember enjoying it because of the realism it brought to the Arthurian legend.  It wasn’t the most historically accurate, but it grounded the legend with an attempt to place him into a realistic setting.  That I enjoyed.

That’s the same idea, I presume, brought to Robin Hood, wherein the legend is placed within as close to a historically accurate setting as possible.  Granted, liberties are taken, but it’s nothing overwhelming to make one complain.  The same could be said for Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, where again some liberties were taken.

This is probably why we have the “historical fiction” genre of literature and film.

As for this film, Scott set it as a prequel to the outlaw Robin, when he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.  This Robin Hood (using his given name Robin Longstride) fights in the English army for King Richard the Lionheart during the last of the crusades.  Robin is dismayed with the actions taken by King Richard (the film opens with them laying siege to a castle in France), and decides to leave the army with a few of his fellow commoners (Will Scarlet, Little John, and Allan A’Dayle).  King Richard is killed in battle, and his personal guard is ambushed by Godfrey, an English spy for the French.  Robin assumes the role of Robert Loxley (one of the king’s personal knights), heads off to Nottingham to return Robert’s sword to his father, and eventually courts Maid Marion, who was married to Robert.  Elsewhere, Richard’s brother John becomes king after his death and rules quite unjustly, Godfrey pillages England, in the name of the king, with the French assisting him, and other different plots ravel and spin around until the final battle on the southern coast of England.

Yes, there is a lot going on, but it all works.  I imagine that there will be the eventual director’s cut release (this movie clocked in at 150 minutes) that will expand on portions of the plot lines, making things a bit smoother (it definitely helped with Kingdom of Heaven).  The film is beautifully shot, both with the choreography and the battle sequences (of which there are several).  The acting was well done, though some of the characters were mere set pieces that didn’t get much; unfortunately, it was the early version of the Merry Men of Sherwood forest that didn’t get much characterizations, between the drunkards of Robin’s personal guard and the feral children that would eventually form part of the Merry Men.  The movie moves though with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett as the leads.  They are both solid and very reliable.

Mark Strong, sadly, is now being typecast into every villain role imaginable.  Then again, he has the look of Evil Bastard That’s Up to No Good, so it does kind of work.  Four movies in six months as the villain though?  Someone cut this guy a break.

As for the realism, I actually did enjoy it.  I know the main portrayal of Robin Hood as always been of the “merry” sort, dressed in green, with the pointed feather cap and his band of men always up to no good (but, up for good, dependent on view point).  And, they have fun too.  The legend of Robin Hood is, I suppose, a happy one (just see Mel Brooks’ “Men in Tights”).  Scott’s Robin Hood isn’t, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be.  Given the setting (late 12th century England), it wasn’t necessarily a fun time – or a fun place for that matter – to live.  With the kings always asking for more money, people often live off of nothing: food, water, clothing, etc.  Frankly, it sucks.

And that’s what I probably liked most about this version of Robin Hood: it helps establish the legend by placing him in a very accurate setting (again, historical liberties aside) and actually showing just how difficult life was, and how one man with his (eventual) band of merry followers made all sorts of trouble for the king because of his unjust ways.

Kudos indeed.

B+

Note: Russell Crowe a few days ago spoke of an eventual sequel that goes into the legend of Robin Hood itself.  I’m not necessarily holding my breath on that: medieval movies don’t generally make a lot of money domestically, and with the budget being as high as it is (over $200 million), the movie needs to make a lot of money to break even, and probably even more to create a sequel.  I would gladly see one made, but the chances of that aren’t very good.  But, we shall see.

Do you know how impossible it is to find an all-rated trailer (at least an embeddable one?), and not a R-rated one?  Damn… anyway, I think this may be the international trailer, but I’m not certain.

Without sounding horribly cliched with the name (which is impossible to, but what do you expect with America today?), Kick Ass was certainly, well, kick ass, in a way.  You do certainly get what you paid for: manic amounts of action and bloody violence, barrels full of cursing, and the enjoyable pleasure of wishing (or not) that your parents trained you in the martial arts at a young age so you could go around slaughtering people at 11 years of age.

If that’s what you’re expecting (and all that you’re expecting), then congrats, you have an easy ‘A’.

But…

First off, this movie is surprisingly dark.  It really doesn’t move that way until maybe halfway through the film, when other subplots start kicking in, but things do get dark.  They mainly involve the back story of Big Daddy, but the violence also g0t relentless, not in that over-the-top sense, but the “I’m killing you and you stay dead” sense that you’re killing people just to kill them.  I did a quick scan of review blurbs and found someone who suggested comparisons to Shoot ‘Em Up, and I certainly see the connection.  Kick Ass has more plot though (Shoot ‘Em Up was a bloodbath every five minutes, and quickly grew boring about half way through).

The movie drags at times too, mainly through the middle section.  I started not liking the film at that time, and I can’t really place my finger on it: too slow, or too much action, or just the fact that I didn’t find it entirely funny that an 11 year old has the mouth of a cracked out Pop-Eye the sailor (maybe I’m getting old…?).  The final act was good, but I didn’t entirely like the concluding action piece.  The music didn’t seem right to me, and there was too much CGI special effects occurring.  That said, the choreography was sound, and the movements of a highly trained eleven year old seemed quite believable.

Actually, the better action sequences came before that one.  Two of them in fact, and I think the music attributed to that.  Thinking back on it, the music draws the film into that dark territory I mentioned earlier.  The first sequence involving Big Daddy played off of his character’s subplot (which is a common plot, but I won’t reveal it here), but watching it and feeling it makes you almost sympathize with the character, even as he efficiently kills a dozen people.  The second sequence with Hit Girl is well shot as well, the music again adding to the dark overtones (the scenes before that lend themselves to this sequence).  There’s a video game feel to it, but by the end, you can see what Hit Girl would do for Big Daddy.

There’s one other nagging thought that keeps recurring when I think about this film: the use of media and the internet and America’s response to it.  You can see in the trailer that Kick Ass becomes a media firestorm when he defends one defenseless guy against three attackers.  The point of Kick Ass the superhero is to become a hero and fight crime, or die trying.  He’s being a hero while people stand by and watch (and, being 21st century America, taking out their iPhones and Blackberry’s and the like and recording everything) and don’t act, almost being the good Samaritan and the vigilante at the same time.  I know this film isn’t the first one to use such an underlying theme of media and good citizenship, but this one does it effectively, mainly because it falls within the conventions of the comic book genre.

But you’re really not seeing this movie for those reasons, right?  I mean, come on, you’re there to see action and violence and a potty mouth 11 year old.  What other reason is there to see it?

B

Note: there was a similar film that came out recently in limited release – Defendor, starring Woody Harrelson as a vigilante crime fighter – with some of the same themes.  It came out on DVD a week or two ago, so at some point, I may consider renting it and writing about that as well.