After escaping from prison in the Holy Land in the 12th-century, Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) and his Moorish friend Azeem (Morgan Freeman) return to England, where they discover Robin’s father murdered and King Richard (Sean Connery) exiled.
When they meet a band of thieves in the woods – who keep shouting words like “tosspot” and “bollocks” (expressions that were not in recorded use until the 16th and 18th century respectively) – they join forces to try to oust the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman).
They build a sort of Ewok village in a glade in Sherwood Forest, complete with rope ladders, engineered lifts, mood lighting, canopy-level walkways and a mosque for Azeem.
Buckles are subsequently swashed and derring-do is derringly-done in an adventure which simply sets out to entertain handsomely and does so with a great deal of dash, flash and panache.
The Sheriff calls in the Scottish Celts to fight Robin and a load of big, hairy, dirty, woady savages turn up, looking like they’ve just arrived from the second century, and setting bits of themselves on fire for kicks.
Costner is more “Indiana Hood” than the Locksley lad of yore and the late Alan Rickman is a joy to behold as the panto-styled Sheriff of Nottingham, while Morgan Freeman’s cultured Moor – Robin’s early saviour – is a commanding, though unlikely, medieval presence.
But it’s director Kevin Reynolds who deserves the most praise for disguising such overfamiliar events with imaginative staging and a constantly roving camera and turning in such an enjoyable popcorn epic.
Robin of Locksley/Robin Hood
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Sheriff of Nottingham
Guy of Gisborne