"Hey, guys, let me blow your twelfth-century minds with some eighteenth-century concepts."I will begin by praising Mel Gibson. Yes, Braveheart is a turducken of anachronism, a beast stuffed so full of out-of-place-out-of-time details which are in turn stuffed with yet more of the same that it threatens to explode in the oven. Yes, he rallies the troops with a set piece speech about freedom, but ultimately, as in all Mel Gibson movies, the carnage is driven by Mel's insane, but amusing, pathological need to avenge his own symbolic emasculation through acts of increasingly exsanguinate violence up to and including his own ultimate martyrdom. Also, did I mention the carnage? Real, awesome, movie carnage--preposterous in its bloodiness, full of gouts, spurts, severings, and general brutality. Getting killed in a Gibson flick--and you are almost certain to get killed in a Gibson flick--looks like it fucking hurts. Gibson's brain tumor has also not reduced his fair mastery of film combat. He understands that for every close-up of a pike impaling a horse or an axe splitting a head, there must be a long shot of the armies on the field, so that we can tell who the fuck is fighting whom. Finally, Gibson is not afraid to give his movies at least one formidable villain. He understands that a powerful adversary adds to the tension by making us doubt the protagonist's chances of success. Come on, the casting of Patrick McGoohan as Edward Longshanks was inspired. Action and sword-and-sandal and historical epics these days just don't get the need for a good villain. They are all revealed to be pusillanimous cowards, ineffectual and effeminate dolts. Darth Vader declines to a racist Japanese frog cartoon.
-my buddy A., after watching Robin Hood
So. I seem to recall that Ridley Scott once made a good movie, but now his brain is mush. Robin Hood, who is supposed to be a charming rogue, is transformed into a dour advocate for universal manhood suffrage, or some shit, a kind of post-Machiavellian, pre-Lockean universalist moral philosopher. Did I mention that his stonemason father wrote the Magna Carta? Reader, he did, which Russell Hood remembers in a crypto-Freudian, repressed-memory-recovery scene straight out of Communion. So affectless and charmless is Crowe that every one of his lines should have been rewritten as, "I guess so," the only variety derived from his ever-changing accent. Was it really necessary to have Robin Hood invent freedom and liberty? The reviewers who compare his anti-royal shtick to today's Tea Party yahoos do the latter a disservice. Was it really necessary to stage a 1/10-scale, nearly shot-for-shot recreation of Spielberg's Normandy landing, except that it is the Nazis (uh, well, the French), landing in England as part of some sort of insanely ahistorical pastiche of the First Baron's War and the Norman Conquest? For cinema's sake, Ridley, the American filmic models for Robin Hood aren't Patton, Washington, and Cincinnatus; they're Billy the Kid and Jesse James, the rogue outlaws of the American movie Western!
The acting is universally terrible, with the exception of Max Von Sydow, who appears to be having a fine old time in this piece of shit. Indeed, his aged and eccentric Sir Walter Loxley is much closer to the character of Robin Hood in humor and temperment than anyone else in the whole damned movie. Cate Blanchett could have been replaced with a low-sodium rice cake; Russell Crowe is out-acted by Maid Marion's pack of mangy dogs; Mark Strong is just happy to be working. Everyone sucks. This movie sucks. Blanchett/Marion's fucking woman-into-battle-disguised-in-armor-Lord-of-the-Rings-ripoff sucks. Ridley Scott's late discovery of fast-cut, hand-held, solarized combat sequences sucks. What is this, Three Kings? Where's Clooney? Hell. I need ya, Decks. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old blade runner, I need your magic.