Wednesday 12 December 2018

Film of the week: Robin Hood

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton in Robin Hood
Jamie Foxx and Taron Egerton in Robin Hood

A universe away from Errol Flynn and green tights, Robin Hood is hereby fitted with black leather and heavy mascara, and told to get with the moody, gloomy disposition of these uncertain times. Director Otto Bathurst and co-writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly have also done away with "ye olde England" and brought the swashbuckling thief to a glossy steampunk dimension rife with sleek tailoring and designer stubble.

Cheeky chappie Taron Egerton (The Kingsman) looks like he's been dropped on to the cobbled streets following a Camden pub-crawl. He is Robin of Loxley, a young lord whose romance with Marian (Eve Hewson) is waylaid when he is drafted to fight in the Crusades.

An act of mercy for a Moorish fighter called John (Jamie Foxx) lands him on a boat back to Nottingham. There, he reunites with John and decides to take on the dastardly sheriff (Ben Mendelsohn) who is taxing the poor to the hilt. Believing Robin to be dead, Marian, meanwhile, has hooked up with Jamie Dornan's local do-gooder.

Arrows thwump into bad guys, Mendelsohn hams up the nasty scowls, and Hewson is squeezed shamelessly into a series of plunging necklines. So cartoonish is this version of the medieval period that you find yourself reassessing Kevin Costner's mulleted 1990s incarnation, which now feels like a gritty docudrama (and a very compelling one at that) by comparison.

Silliness aside, Robin Hood is devoid of atmosphere, as well as being thin on plot and overly reliant on bombastic hijinks. Even its all-star cast seem unsure of themselves despite all those lavish sets and intricate fight choreography. Strictly for "tweens".

★★ Hilary A White

The Camino Voyage

Cert: PG; Now showing

Early on in The Camino Voyage writer, poet, adventurer Danny Sheehy says: "If you're sensible all the time you'd never do anything." He is at that point a man in his sixties sailing in a small boat from Ireland, along the west coast of France and down to Santiago in Galicia with three friends: fellow Kerrymen musician Brendan Begley, stonemason Breandan Moriarty and Kerry adoptee artist Liam Holden. For the final leg Moriarty was replaced by Glen Hansard, who described himself as a sub on a journey, the beginning of which was "30 to 40 times harder" than he imagined, but the film of which is beautiful, calming and life-affirming.

They built the naomhog, Naomh Gobnait, themselves and over six weeks in three Mays, from 2014 to 2016, they sailed the 2,500km of the different stretches of the journey. Along the way, they camp, meet people, play music and chat. Donal O'Ceilleachair directs what is, as the Camino is intended to be, much more than just a physical journey. Each man offers snippets of their process, that you need to be free in yourself, that if you worried what people thought you'd never do it, grief, healing, being in the moment, but these are just sprinkled in, there is no heavy banana spiritual stuff, this is the story of an adventure based in Irish traditions and told largely as Gaeilge and it's a pleasure and privilege to get to see people who just do things.

★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Shoplifters

Cert: 15A; Now showing

I loved this. And as it won the Palme d'Or this year I was not alone in my affection for this Japanese family drama from prolific writer-director Hirokazo Kore-eda. It's deceptively simple, sweet, often funny, thought-provoking, moving but never mawkish and really accessible. Don't let the prize or the subtitles, or the fact critics like it, put you off.

Apparently Osamu (Franky Lily) and his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) live with Granny (Kirin Kiki who died in September) tweenage son Shota (Jyo Kairi) and Nobayo's sister Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) in a ramshackle over crowded apartment. On their way back from a shoplifting foray, Osamu and Shota see a small girl locked out in the cold. They've clearly seen her before and decide to bring her back with them for some food. The family doesn't make a fuss, they're more interested in whether they got the right shampoo. They feed the little girl who turns out to be five and called Juri (Sasaki Miyu). She also turns out to be covered in scars and in no hurry to go home, so they keep for her for the night, and then a little longer. It's not kidnapping if you don't ask for a ransom.

Juri becomes part of a family we learn to know, character by appealing character, their unorthodox story told with a detail-speckled patience that builds quietly until it shifts gear into drama.

What does family mean? What does love mean? And what's the deal with poverty? Shoplifters looks at it all. ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Assassination Nation

Cert: 18; Now showing

This fascinating film lays out its stall early in its flashy trigger warning, there'll be violence, drug-taking, all the usual things but, it warns, there will also be exposure to "fragile male egos".

It's funny and it's true and it encapsulates what writer-director Sam Levinson's second feature is about.

It's political in the parallels to Trump's America, but in a broader socio-political sense too and although its targets are scattered and it virtually changes genre in the final act, it is powerful, original and thought-provoking.

The story begins with 18-year-old Lily (a wonderful Odessa Young) describing how a town went mad and turned on four teenage girls, herself and three friends. Social -media heavy and plotted around hacking, the film seems to be about new things but it quickly links into old things - misogyny and the need to control female sexuality. Mores have changed so much, and not at all. There is an awful lot going on, it doesn't all work, but overall this is something that doesn't just have great style, it has real substance. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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