Gung-ho adventure breathes new life into legend of Sherwood
Film review: Robin Hood (12A), 6/10
The men are far from merry in director Otto Bathurst's gung-ho action adventure, which canters through the blood-soaked origins of the English folk hero before he gives serious thought to riding through glens or stealing from the rich.
'Forget what you think you know. This is no bedtime story,' booms a superfluous voiceover narration which accompanies the derring-do on horseback and daredevil acrobatics in a bygone Nottingham torn apart by the unholy union of state and church.
Action set pieces are reminiscent of the Assassin's Creed video games, employing slow-motion to excess as leading man Taron Egerton performs bone-crunching somersaults while firing arrows with his trusty bow.
Bathurst delivers some decent thrills with these high-tempo sequences including a breathless chase in horse-drawn carts choreographed to resemble the chariot race from Ben-Hur, and the explosive theft of the Sheriff of Nottingham's war taxes.
Away from the testosterone-fuelled destruction, Ben Chandler and David James Kelly's script allows Egerton to recycle his charm and swagger from the Kingsman films while co-star Ben Mendelsohn embraces the pantomime season as a suitably slippery Sheriff of Nottingham.
Tim Minchin attempts to provide comic relief as Friar Tuck but there are few opportunities to play for genuine laughs.
The Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn) issues a draft notice to Lord Robin of Loxley (Egerton) to fight in the Crusades in Arabia.
During four gruelling years away from his sweetheart Marian (Eve Hewson), Robin is battle-hardened by his experiences wielding a bow and arrows under Commander Guy Gisbourne (Paul Anderson).
He witnesses brutality perpetrated by the English against enemy prisoners and Robin defies his comrades to protect a Moor called John (Jamie Foxx), whose son is tortured by Gisbourne's underlings.
Robin returns to Nottingham in disgrace and learns that the Sheriff has falsely reported his death and seized his assets. A grief-stricken Marian is now in the arms of impassioned community leader Will Tillman (Jamie Dornan), who speaks on behalf of the common folk in their disputes against the Sheriff.
Heartbroken and enraged by the hand that fate has dealt him, Robin trains with John to overthrow the Sheriff, whose war taxes have impacted the poorest in society. 'Vengeance for you and justice for my son,' seethes the Moor.
Robin Hood is a solid and well-executed romp, which is clearly intended as the opening chapter of a franchise.
Egerton copes admirably with the physical demands of the lead role and he catalyses a gently simmering screen chemistry with Hewson, who is squandered as the sole female character with a voice.
Foxx snarls his lines as the grief-stricken mentor, who transforms Robin into a buff killing machine via a slickly edited training montage.
Unlike its dashing hero, Bathurst's film doesn't hit all of its intended targets but it comes close enough to entertain for almost two hours.