Caught up in the Third Crusade, bowman Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and his comrades are imprisoned in France after questioning Richard the Lionheart's (Danny Huston) bloody campaign. When the monarch is killed and his forces routed, Robin, Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Little John (Kevin Durand) and Allan A'Dale (Alan Doyle) head for England.
Repelling an ambush meant for the deceased King, Robin promises dying Knight Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge) that he will return his sword to his father in Nottinghamshire.
Assuming Hodge's identity, Robin finds himself attending the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), Richard's brother who immediately imposes hefty new taxes and sends his henchman, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), to enforce them. Secretly allied with the French, Godfrey was behind the attempted ambush and uses the new laws to stir up more unrest.
As Robin fulfils his promise and travels to Nottingham, he meets Loxley's blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow) who implores him to continue his deception in order to prevent King John seizing his son's lands. Loxley's widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) is less enamoured with the stranger, however, until he and his men begin to fight back against Godfrey's men, bringing hope to the impoverished people of Nottingham.
As Godfrey's meddling leaves England divided, Robin and his men must defend the country from a French invasion, the lowly bowman's heroic actions forming the basis of a legend that will endure for centuries.
Ridley Scott's new take on the legendary outlaw went through several iterations before hitting the screen, including an intriguing premise that would have shown the Sheriff of Nottingham in a far more positive light. Ironically, one of fiction's greatest villains becomes an ineffectually drippy Matthew Macfadyen in this bold origins story that's not afraid to overturn preconceptions.
Wreathed in the handsomely murky palette that has become Scott's visual trademark, Robin Hood is stylistically and thematically a million miles away from the likes of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Opening with an epic battle that recalls the director's triumphant 2000 comeback Gladiator, Robin Hood is nevertheless a far more dense film that eschews crowd-pleasing action sequences for relatively complex historical drama.
As a result, Ridley's Robin doesn't do quite as much stealing from the rich or dashing through Sherwood Forest in Lincoln Green as might be expected, but as the film's Batman Begins-esque arc reaches its climax, the tale does ultimately pay off.
With no real need to reinvent the leading man wheel, Crowe is perfectly good as the gruff bow-wielding everyman, although the wandering accent that saw him storm out of an interview with the BBC is a bit of a distraction. Not perhaps as much as 'Welsh' cohort Scott Grimes, however, whose accent is more Vegas than Valleys.
An intriguing attempt to put the timeless legend in the context of actual historical events, for the most part Robin Hood hits its mark.