A Review of ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (1991), Starring Alan Rickman

In honour of the great Alan Rickman and his recent passing, my friend Nick (and yes, I have friends) has requested that I review one of Alan Rickman’s most iconic movie roles. Since we all know and love Mr. Rickman, I’ll waste no further time and get right to the film.

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00:30 – Wow. This is an incredible score. Like, properly heroic. This is probably one of the best pieces of opening music ever. I hope the rest of the film lives up to it.

02:16 – Standard exposition card. Classy.

03:03 – Wow. Dude just got his hand cut off. Brutal.

04:12 – “This is English courage.” Said with an American accent. Fuck you, Hairy Costner.

05:53 – I never realised that the city of Jerusalem was built on a perfectly flat sound stage.

07:53 – Alright, fair play, they have just set up a good part of our hero’s origin, his sidekick, and his link to the romantic interest, all in a very short space of time with a lot of action. This is good old-fashioned movie pacing.

08:00 – Locksley Castle. Looks very much like a manor house and very much not like a castle, but hey, what do I know?

08:30 – Aw yeah, fucking BRIAN BLESSED. He’s my spirit animal.

08:40 – What a voice on this man. Such a class actor. You can hear the Shakespearian theatre dripping out of every syllable.

09:29 – AWW YEAH BATTLE-MODE-BLESSED. Shit’s about to go daaaaahhhhhhn.

09:49 – Shit, the Klu Klux Klan have got him trapped. Not sure those robes of theirs will stand up for long against four-and-a-half feet of Blessed-driven steel sword, however.

09:57 – No! Alan Rickman’s in the KKK? Mind you, talent like that, even a racist past time probably wouldn’t hurt his career.

10:13 – Okay, I know for a fact that a fully-armed and operational Brian Blessed, on horseback no less, would roundly fuck any enemy force, from cavalry right up to attack helicopters. I find his dispatch by a gang of racists in dressing-gowns highly unrealistic.

10:38 – FOUR MONTHS LATER -In Dover, apparently. Man, that place looks bleak.

10:58 – Costner’s had a shave. Looks a bit baby-faced for a man who was just being starved to death in a Middle Eastern prison. And where’d he get those fancy clothes from? And the fare for the ferry? SO MANY PLOT HOLES.

11:15 – No, Kevin, that’s sand! You can’t eat that!

11:20 – No Englishman would thrash around in the surf screaming “I’m home!” And certainly not with that accent.

11:37 – Just had our first main bit of none-whispered dialogue from our two protagonists. Morgan Freeman’s great. I thought Kevin Costner was an actor, though?

12:22 – “Our fighting days are done.” Imagine that line, spoken with no inflection and no emotion in a completely flat tone. Or, save your imagination and watch this film.

13:25 – More dialogue. Pretty sure Costner was reading his lines for the first time ever from a cue-card held behind the camera.

13:35 – “What do you know of women?” What. did I miss something? Are women a mythical beast in this universe? That being said, I haven’t yet seen any…

14:16 – Robin Hood is a bellend.

15:42 – Some kid’s being hunted with dogs. Wasn’t that the Medieval version of sport?

16:12 – Kid climbed a tree, so now they’re cutting it down. Why would they cut down the tree instead of just chucking things at him until he fell?

16:17 – Robin Hood just tried to be sassy. Kevin Costner managed to sound vaguely awake.

16:52 – This villain (Guy de Glastonbury or whatever his name is) is great. That voice, he sounds like a boulder shitting out gravel.

17:10 – Where the fuck did that crossbow come from? Under his robes?

19:52 – Here we go with more Alan Rickman! In fairness, he does more than enough acting for himself and Costner, so it actually balances out.

20:15 – Why does the Sheriff think Robin Hood’s a “whelp”? I mean, obviously in this case that’s true, but only because of the Costner of it all. But I’d hardly think that a knight who survived the Crusades would be a “whelp”.

21:20 – Why would they burn the castle down? Wouldn’t someone after power and land want to keep a castle? As I recall from history classes, they’re weren’t quick to build…

23:49 – Christ, even when he’s swearing a blood oath, ol’ Robin sounds bored.

25:12 – Now this is some quality witching right here – this lady is nailing it.

28:20 – As evidence of how much of a prick Robin is, he just showed visible disappointment that Maid Marian wasn’t as hot as he remembered. Bear in mind that he’s here to TELL HER THAT HER BROTHER IS DEAD. Jesus, Robin, there is a time and a place. Or did you really expect “Your brother died, but it’s alright because he got tortured first” to be a major skirt-hitcher?

29:03 – Okay, so, Robin just swore to protect Marian. She tells him to fuck off (very sensibly, I might add) and then has a masked bodyguard put a sword to his back. So rather than doing as requested, he decides to… attack the bodyguard? Nice. Real nice, Robin. You jebbend.

30:16 – “No one feels his loss more than I.” Nice sentiment, Robin. It’s a shame you said it as though you were reading the answer to a crossword puzzle, though.

31:14 – “My purpose in coming was not to hurt you. I swore to your brother that I would protect you.” By beating up the people she had employed to protect herself? Fuck off, Robin.

31:28 – Gorgeous castle setting, though.

32:40 – Cue a “hilarious” scene with Robin totally not understanding what a telescope is. He just looks like a moron. Which he is. A moron.

36:23 – “You scare easily my painted Moor.” Yeah, keep it up bellend, further insulting Morgan Freeman is definitely a way to win our hearts.

36:53 – So, they come upon a river, Azeem claims “in [his] dreams alone has he imagined such a place.” And Robin, being so “charismatic”, tells him to “imagine a way to cross it.” I get that they don’t like each other a great deal, but fuck me is Robin unlikable. Truly, absolutely irritating on a very deep and personal level. It’s only made worse by Costner’s inability to connect with anyone in any kind of emotional way. Like Hayden Christensen, he’s a fucking vacuum of charisma – he’s so flat and robotic, he actually sucks out of the scene all of the emotion being put into it by the other actors. I mean, Morgan Freeman’s doing his best with a very dodgily stereotyped character, but fuck me, every ounce of acting he musters just falls into the great, puckered chasm formed by Costner’s attempts to deliver the lines in an even faintly human way. How did this loser ever develop a career? Jesus.

37:10 – Also his hair is stupid.

41:26 – Okay, it seems the film has heard my complaints because it just handed Robin his own arse twice in quick succession. I can get behind this. You go, film.

42:04 – Apparently Little John can’t bloody swim. Why did he get into a fight over a river, then? I just mean, that seems like playing into your own weaknesses, you know? Maybe he was tired of life.

43:05 – “Save it for the ladeez.” Yo, Costner, you do realise that this is set in England, right? In, like, the 800-hundred-years-agos? Or did you think that this is how everyone still is in England? Did you assume that this was a documentary about an American man trying to integrate into a country that has literally not advanced since the 1100’s? That would explain a lot…

43:15 – Apparently Robin and Azeem are now friends. When and how did that happen, exactly? Last I checked you were still giving him shit for Not having had his arse kicked into the water like you.

45:05 – And here we go with ol’ Will Scarlet, another American. This one can act though. Where’s the justice in Kevin Costner having had a career but not Christian Slater?

51:11 – Ah, there’s the classic line. Alan Rickman is divine in this movie. But why a spoon?

53:10 – “No, to lead you.” Just typing it out I can add more to that line than Costner.

54:34 – “Because it’s dull, you twit, it’ll hurt more.” Even with italics, I can’t muster a millionth of the talent that Rickman casually throws out.

57:59 – Robin just gave an inspiring speech. Well, it was meant to be inspiring. It was an off-brand version of inspiring. It was the “X-Game 360 Console” of inspiring. It was… “Impring.”

58:43 – Aw yeah epic Medieval montage. This piece of music is truly amazing. THIS is inspiring. I am inspired. I am not impried.

1:00:38 – Christ, even with no dialogue Alan Rickman owns it. See this, Costner? This is what those in “the biz” call acting. You twit.

1:01:28 – Three to four million? He’s nicked four million in five months? Four million what, hairpins? Jesus, four million of anything back then was enough to buy, like… Most of England. Four million? Even in pennies, that’s, like, a lot. Wow. Good job.

1:02:14 – “And call off Christmas.” Oh, Alan, you saucy minx.

1:06:23 – Ah, Michael McShane. Total legend. He’s my spirit animal. He’s also a much better actor than Kevin Costner. Everyone in this movie is a better actor than Kevin Costner. Even the horses. And the trees, and the bar for them is set really, really low.

1:07:32 – McShane is killing it. Such a legend.

1:10:17 – “Well at least I didn’t use a spoon.” God damn it, Rickman, god damn it.

1:11:49 – That had better not be Costner swimming naked in that pond.

1:12:00 – That had better not be Costner’s arse under that waterfall.

1:12:01 – OH GOD FUCK IT ALL

1:12:05 – You can tell this is a film from the early ’90s because the leading man doesn’t have a body that looks like it’s trying to eat itself with its own muscles.

1:12:15 – That being said, Marian’s coming over all soppy-like on seeing his naked bod, and, y’know, it’s not that nice of a naked bod. I mean, not that I’m one to talk, but, y’know, like, if you didn’t know that was Kevin Costner you might assume that it was just somebody whose main form of exercise was walking the dog and opening lager cans. Just sayin’.

1:12:58 – Even Marian’s unnamed maidservant manages to steal the scene from Costner. At this point it’s just embarrassing.

1:14:40 – I can’t watch Michael McShane in this film without cracking up. What a legend.

1:15:49 – Alright, as soon as you give Marian any dialogue she’s… really not much better than Costner. This was a big budget movie at the time, how did they end up with these two as the leads? They must have spent all of their casting money on Alan Rickman.

1:21:00 – Okay, they’ve just had a scene with Azeem delivering a baby – I think by cesarean? And one thing that I really like is that they kept a lot of religious tension between him and Friar Tuck. I mean, I know we have enough religious bullshit in this day and age, but it’s nice that they didn’t just ignore the kind of trouble that might arise with having a Muslim wandering around Medieval England.

1:22:10 – For a film that has cast a Christian American of Nigerian descent playing a Moorish Muslim, they’re surprisingly unpatronising of Islamic values. Azeem turns down beer, and the other characters just accept it. Despite my previous point, I again quite like this idea that whilst having a different set of beliefs might be cause for tension, it doesn’t need to be cause for ridicule.

1:25:10 – Ah, and Lady Marian gets rowed off into the mist. And, hopefully, out of this film. This romance sub-plot is just so flat. Probably because the dialogue’s crap, neither person has any charisma and the whole thing’s stupid. Great music, though. Great music.

1:26:16 – This film lives two lives. It bottoms out every time we have Robin on screen, but get the Sheriff and his horrific witch involved and Boom! Instant quality.

1:29:38 – The Sheriff’s soldiers are following Blind Duncan to Robin’s location. Not to be harsh, but… What if they ended up in, like, Swanage or something? I mean, he’s relying on the horse to take him, but that thing sees a mare in heat and Boom! Intant hilarity.

1:37:17 – Again, credit where it’s due, this movie gets its action scenes spot-on. They manage to be exciting, threatening, and the bad guys seem mostly competent. In an attack on the Merry Mens’ village, the initial wave of hired thugs fail to do the job. So the Sheriff has the place filled with fire arrows and flaming pots launched from catapults. I approve of this kind of efficient, down-to-earth villainy.

1:40:30 – Alan Rickman continues to be the best part of this movie. He’s just so threatening and vile and unhinged. He’s my spirit animal.

1:46:26 – Christian Slater has to look away from Costner before delivering his big piece of exposition. Presumably for dramatic effect, and also to mitigate the sapping of his talent by the emotional vampire that is Kevin Costner.

1:49:08 – With the exception of the cardboard Jerusalem at the very start, these sets are bloody neat. The Sheriff’s castle looks like an actual castle. And it’s all real, too. No greenscreen here.

1:49:36 – Holy shit, I think that’s King Ecgbert. Hang on… Damn. Cannot confirm. Okay, somebody needs to find a way of checking if Linus Roache was playing the guard talking to Friar Tuck at this time stamp. If so, that’s awesome.

1:56:02 – Ugh. The executioner just dribbled onto Will Scarlett’s head. That’s actually a brilliant touch. I love this film!

1:57:12 – Ugh. Marian’s given up on acting so is now just screaming. I hate this film.

1:57:56 – Got to love a villain whose primary motivation, when his base is under attack, is still to execute his prisoners as quickly as possible. I’m not even being sarcastic, that is literally exactly how I’d react.

1:59:45 – Now Morgan Freeman can deliver an Inspiring Motherfucking Speech. See, Kevin, this here, this is also called acting. It’s what talented people do after they’ve learned their craft and when they give a shit about the job they’re doing.

2:00:47 – I love how, as he gets on the catapult, Morgan Freeman tries but eventually just cannot be shitted with finding the scabbard for his sword, so just tucks it against his hip as though nobody’s going to notice. I NOTICED, MORGAN. YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM ME.

2:01:03 – I am 99% certain Will Scarlet just said “Fuck me, he cleared it!” I’m guessing they edited that out of the version I saw when I was a child.

2:01:04 – Also, as ludicrous as it is, the catapult-launch over the wall is hilarious and amazing. But a bit pointless given that the peasants trapped by the gate managed to lift the gate almost two seconds after Robin and Azeem landed.

2:02:11 – Again, Alan Rickman, fucking owning every fucking scene he’s in. As he screams his indignation at the witch you he’s just glorious and sexy and I love him.

2:05:16 – Alright, so, a lot of people remember this film for Alan Rickman’s ridiculous gallivanting across the screen like the King of Villains, and there’s loads in this movie that kids love, but you may not remember some other bits that make this an affair for mature audiences only. We’ve just had an old woman being skewered alive, we had a kid being hanged, the Sheriff is currently part-way through the aggravated rape of Marian (no, really), there are dismemberments, there’s swearing, there’s close-ups of Kevin Costner. This is not the family-friendly adventure that I remember. And it was a fucking PG Rating!

2:05:56 – At this precise moment, just over Robin Hood’s shoulder, through the window you can see a chunk of castle that’s clearly a piece of set. You can just see it end abruptly in a straight line at the top. And the fact that I noticed this, and nothing of what Kevin Costner is actually doing, is probably an indication of just how gripping a performance he’s delivering.

2:07:38 – Michael McShane just full-on murdered a bishop. Total. Legend.

2:08:18 – The fight scene between Robin and the Sheriff is fantastic. It’s ridiculous and over-the-top in exactly the way it should be. It’s theatrical, and revels in swashbuckling excitement. They’re throwing benches at each other, toppling statues, wrecking all the woodwork – it is everything a duel between a hero and a villain should be. I love this film!

2:08:50 – God damn it, Costner can’t even stab a dude and make it look decent. He flexes his wrist like he’s letting go of something hot. Jesus. All you have to do is stab a dude and look serious whilst doing it. How do you fuck that up? How do you fuck up stabbing a dude? I hate this film.

2:09:13 – There is a lot of saliva throughout this movie. Alan Rickman’s wonderful death scene involves pints of the stuff. Marian spits on people. Executioners dribble. I’m not complaining. I actually think there should be more drool in modern movies.

2:10:49 – The costumes in this film are hardly a high point, but why does Robin always look like a dipshit? It’s his fucking wedding and he looks like his mum dressed him for a school trip to a castle using random shit she found under the bed. Oh, wait, his mum’s dead, that was a plot point – sorry, Robin, meant no offense, I’m sure she was a lovely lady.

2:10:57 – On the subject of costumes, Marian’s wearing some kind of wreath of barley. That seems a little – pagan? For a film which features the Christianity of its characters so heavily.

2:11:15 – And the music flairs, the sun shines through the trees, and we are presented with the awesome majesty of King Connery. Showing up Robin Hood at his own wedding.

2:11:46 – It’s unbelievable just how easily Connery steals this entire scene. Even him just smirking in the background distracts from the climax of the romance between the two leads.

2:12:33 – It is entirely justified for Michael McShane to get the last line in this movie. He is, after all, a real legend.


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I really like this film. It is exactly what it should be – a fun, over-the-top adventure which is frequently hysterical and mostly fun. Unlike Ridley Scott’s later attempt, it manages to avoid being dull to the point of being soporific, it has great ’90s-style action scenes.

Costner is truly, truly awful, as is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio – they couldn’t act their way through an infomercial for air fresheners. But the entire rest of the cast completely nails it, the sets are absurdly good, and the music is spot-on, especially the main theme and the love theme.

I wish more films today were like this – we need so much less grit and darkness in our movies. It’s one of the reasons that the two Marvel ‘Avengers’ films work so well, as well as ‘The Force Awakens’ – they focus on the kind of fun and joy that films can provide.

This film is well-paced, it’s exciting, it has a bit of a weak script but the dialogue is functional enough to keep everything moving. The story is nice and simple; most of the time A follows B follows C. With a better leading pair, this film would be a proper classic – as it is, it’s a very enjoyable, big-budget B-movie.

Of course, a lot of the enjoyment comes from Alan Rickman. He interacts so well with the other actors around him. Every line is loaded with poise and threat and characterisation. His performance is incredibly physical, too – the way he moves, the suddenness of his actions, it all contributes to a massively memorable villainous performance. I’m aware that he was very keen not to be type-cast as the villain in his Hollywood career, but he delivers in these sorts of roles so well that he was almost a victim of his own success in that regard – why get anyone else to play your bad guy when you could have Alan Rickman do it better?

As I write this, the news of his death is about twelve hours old. And whilst it is very sad, and obviously all of our best wishes go out to his family, it’s nice to know that we’ll always be able to revisit all of these great roles of his, these performances that delivered so much joy to so many people. In that regard he will always be with us, and the timelessness of his skill and talent will maintain his legacy for decades.

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