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ROBIN HOOD

Producer: Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio
Director: Otto Bathurst
Writer: Ben Chandler and David James Kelly
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, F. Murray Abraham, Tim Minchin, Paul Anderson, Josh Herdman, Cornelius Booth and Björn Bengtsson
Studio: Summit Entertainment

F

If you think about it, Robin Hood—despite the avalanche of movies, telefilms, TV series and spoofs about him—has not fared at all well on screens big or small. With the exception of “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” the Warner Bros. classic of 1938 starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains and a score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the pickings are very slim; certainly more recent pictures with Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe have been pretty much busts. To add insult to injury, a Disney animated version was one of that studio’s weakest feature cartoons, and Mel Brooks’s takeoff “Men in Tights” one of his dreariest movies. Even Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn couldn’t save the late James Goldman’s revisionist take “Robin and Marian.”

To the long, dreary list may now be added this supposedly cool modern spin on the old tale, aimed squarely at today’s action-oriented youth market. A bizarre, goofy, almost unbelievably awful reworking of the legend, the debut feature by Otto Bathurst, who’s previously done some series TV, belongs near the very bottom in the Robin Hood hall of shame, not just among the worst versions of the story but the worst movies of the year.

The plot is specifically situated during the Third Crusade, which would place it in the late twelfth century, but visually the look—in sets and costumes (courtesy of production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos and costumer Julian Day)—is a mash-up of medieval rags, vaguely proto-industrial grime and modernist hipsterism, to which is added a dollop of utter garishness. The result is visual ugliness of an extraordinary sort, especially when combined in the action sequences with chaotic cinematography by George Steel and messily whiplash editing by Chris Barwell and Joe Hutshing.

The narrative cobbled together by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly is an incoherent jumble. Robin (Taron Egerton, acting like something out of a CW teen melodrama) is the lord of Loxley, in love with Marian (Eve Hewson, who smiles a lot and wears pretty clothes) until he’s “drafted” to go on crusade by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn, smirking and hissing throughout). In battle in “Arabia” he engages in battles in which bows and arrows (some in the form of machine-gun-like crossbows) appear to be the preferred weapons, with knives and swords appearing only occasionally. While trying to save the life of a Moslem prisoner—the son of chieftain Yahya (Jamie Foxx, all empty bluster)—from the bloodthirsty Guy of Gisborne (snarling Paul Anderson), Robin is wounded and sent home for medical reasons.

There he finds that he was reported dead, his lands have been seized by the sheriff, and Marian has moved on to wed Will Tillman (Jamie Dornan), a champion of the people. Robin is desolate, but Yahya—now calling himself John—has stowed away on Robin’s ship and now becomes his mentor in marksmanship and dedication to the cause of bringing down the sheriff, who—it turns out—is the chief financier of the crusade, which is merely a war fabricated by the evil church to fill its coffers and keep the people in thrall. (Who knew that Nottingham, of all places, was such a vital fiscal cog in the medieval war machine?)

In any event, Robin becomes The Hood, robbing the sheriff in increasingly reckless heists while posing as his loyal friend—an act that earns him a truly weird monologue by Mendelsohn in which he pours out the truth about his unhappy childhood. But it also earns Robin a private conference with the church’s ultimate representative, the malevolent Cardinal (F. Murray Abraham, oozing hypocrisy from every pore in his withered face), who makes clear the church’s ultimate objective is to continue ruling by fear and, in addition, supplant the king (unseen, but presumably Richard the Lionhearted). Meanwhile Marian is conspiring with Friar Tuck (played by a comically heroic type by Tim Minchin) to get the legal goods on the sheriff.

It all comes down to a big confrontation between Robin, Marian, John and “the people” against the sheriff, Guy (his new henchman) and his army of soldiers. Guess who wins. But there’s a concluding surprise that points the way to a sequel. Fat chance.

This “Robin Hood” represents a totally misguided conception—it’s hard to imagine that anybody ever believed it a good idea, let alone agreed to finance it (what were you thinking, Leonardo?)—that has been put on the screen with a truly gruesome combination of arrogance and ineptitude. It does, however, feature one scene that’s worth seeing, in which Mendelsohn and Abraham appear together, trying to outdo each other in lip-smacking, scenery-chewing villainy. It has to represent a nadir in the careers of both actors, but it encapsulates in a few seconds the sheer ghastliness of this whole horrible movie.

14 CAMERAS

Producer: Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion
Director: Scott Hussion and Seth Fuller
Writer: Victor Zarkoff
Stars: Neville Archambault, Chelsea Edmundson, Amber Midthunder, Hank Rogerson, John-Paul Howard, Brytnee Ratledge, Gavin bWhite, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Brianne Moncrief, Zach Dulin and Kodi Saint Angelo
Studio: Gravitas Ventures

F

Voyeurism of a most extreme sort was the subject of Victor Zarkoff’s “13 Cameras,” a low-budget thriller that grew increasingly implausible as it progressed but was nonetheless tightly constructed and genuinely creepy. The sequel expands things by adding not only another camera but needless subplots, and the tightness evaporates. “14 Cameras” becomes a flat, pointless bore, marked by poor writing and slipshod construction, as well as flat directing and amateurish acting.

In “13 Cameras,” the villain, creepy landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault), simply spied on his tenants until fatally intervening in their troubled lives. It was a slim story, but for the most part was crisply staged and executed. This time around, Gerald is more of an entrepreneur who rents out a baker’s dozen of camera-equipped homes, footage from which he streams out to paying customers on the dark web.

He still, however, has his own perverted interests. He keeps Claire (Brianne Moncrief), the pregnant housewife from the first movie, imprisoned in an underground chamber, and when one of his renters, Sarah (Chelsea Edmundson), almost catches him rambling about in her house, he tosses her in as well, though he never seems to have contact with the women except for occasional trips to bathe them tenderly. In one plot thread, Sarah attempts to escape despite Claire’s warnings not to—good advice, as it turns out.

In any event, after a pointless prologue involving a couple (Zach Dulin and Kodi Saint Angelo) who simply banter for awhile before disappearing in their car, the focus shifts to a new bunch of renters: parents Arthur (Hank Rogerson) and Lori (Lora Martinez-Cunningham), their daughter Molly (Brytnee Ratledge) and her horny younger brother Kyle (John-Paul Howard), who has the hots for Molly’s friend Danielle (Amber Midthunder), their guest. Much of the movie is given over to desultory footage of them, enlivened only when one of Gerald’s customers decides to pay the girls an unwelcome visit and Gerald intervenes to protect them.

By this time, however, Junior (Gavin White), a teen who lives with Gerald (and may be the son Claire never knew), investigates what his “guardian” has been up to and decides to save Claire, and the family will become engaged as well. But though Gerald’s flow of footage will halt, a coda is added to suggest there might be life in the old goat yet and the hiatus in his work output could be temporary.

Though Zarkoff wrote the script for this sequel to his surprise little succès d’estime, he passed directing duties along to producers Seth Fuller and Scott Hussion, who exhibit little flair for structure or pacing and are unable to draw anything but the most elementary performances from the cast, although it must be admitted that Archambault remains a menacing presence. Fuller also served as cinematographer, and shows little aptitude in that capacity either. Editor Zach Lee gives the picture no perceptible rhythm, failing to inject any excitement into what is pretty flaccid footage.

For discerning genre fans “13 Cameras” was a surprisingly effective little thriller about a twisted guy and his hapless victims. This time around, the haplessness is to be found in the filmmakers. “14 Cameras” is a thoroughly unnecessary and disappointing sequel.