Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe riding through the glen
Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe with his band of men

Much has already been written about Russell’s foray into the Robin Hood saga. Consensus seems to be that the film is a rattling good yarn but sadly devoid of any of the humor and whimsy that generally make a good Hood tale. Instead there are massed battle scenes in the Saving Private Ryan meets Narnia mode and much brooding, grunting and fighting by Russell who, it must be said, is excellent at brooding, grunting and fighting. In fact it could be argued that a defining reason for the film being gritty and butch is simply because Russell does gritty and butch well but isn’t particularly well suited to roles that demand a lighter touch.

This does beg the question why give Russell the part in the first place. Since tough and angry is his thing why not give him the role as sheriff and allow him to stretch his badass muscles. The sheriff is by far the most interesting role in the Robin Hood movies and TV shows and Alan Rickman from the Costner film and Keith Allen from the recent superb BBC series both leave a high bar to jump over. Even the role of Guy of Gisborne played so well in the show by Richard Armitage would suit Russell better than that of Robin.

The legendary Crowe bad temper, recently seen only a few days ago when Russell flounced out of a BBC radio interview after being asked about Robin’s peculiar roving regional accent, should be proof enough that the actor’s true forte lies in playing villains. His superb portrait of a neo Nazi thug in Romper Stomper was chilling in its raw authenticity.  This character was totally believable and very scary and it’s a crying shame Russell hasn’t had the chance to expand on this interesting and deep veined theme rather than temper his resources by having to play the hero time and time again.

Let’s hope that any Robin sequels are shelved and Russell isn’t encouraged to play King Arthur or Flash Gordon. Instead let him be offered some full on psycho-evil roles. Think Dennis Hopper rather than Mel Gibson or Sly Stallone and leave the nice guy parts to the nice guys.

-Frank Scott
(no relation to Ridley)