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New 'Robin Hood' a noble effort


THE TRAILERS did not mislead us. "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" is a thoroughly exciting film, one that is well-paced and well-staged. Its trouble is that it is really two films in one. Part of it is action with occasional comedy. The other part is almost camp.

Alan Rickman is responsible for the camp. He plays the Sheriff of Nottingham, who takes over the country while King Richard is off to the Crusades.

As the sheriff, Rickman is almost low comedy. His footage is exceptionally funny, but it doesn't necessarily go with the rest of the film.

Kevin Costner, of course, is Robin, the legendary 12th-century nobleman who became an outlaw and helped King Richard reclaim the throne after his return from the wars.

0$ A lot has been written about the

new film. A lot is written about practically every new movie, but this one has had more than its share of attention. We are told, for instance, that the film cost some $45 million and that Costner doesn't really appear nude in the movie, that it is a double.

We have also been told that Kevin Reynolds, who directed, wasn't always in control, and that the accents, meant to be English, wander all over the place.

The last may not be true. Costner doesn't even try to affect an English accent, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as Maid Marian, gives us only a line or two. The rest is pure American.

That's all right. Clark Gable, after all, didn't speak with a Southern accent in "Gone With the Wind," and when movies became international back in the '50s -- when they began to mix their casts, when players from several countries appeared in the same movie -- all this went out the window, which is where it belongs.

Costner doesn't need to use an accent, and he doesn't have to do his Robin with any more animation than he has. He's been rapped for that, too. Some have said that he is doing little more than dancing with thieves in this film, but that may not be fair. This is a thoroughly professional performance. It may be more American than English, but it is valid.

The movie was done on locations in England and France, and like the 1938 "Adventures of Robin Hood," starring Errol Flynn, it has a rich, throbbing score that underlines the action, giving it the flow it needs.

The film moves, and the special effects are awesome. The finale, in which Robin and his men save some of their cohorts from hanging, is interestingly staged. It is excitingly developed with more than a -- of originality.

In other areas, however, there is very little originality. This is when the movie goes the predictable, "Friday the 13th" route. Don't you wonder why filmmakers keep doing this? Wouldn't you think they would know by this time we are all expecting it, waiting for it?

Christian Slater is Will Scarlett, who, it turns out, is related to Robin of Locksley. In this instance, Scarlett is more than just one of the bandit king's merry men. And then there is Maid Marian. When she first appears, she comes on like a Ninja soldier.

In many areas, the script sticks to the particulars, as established by previous films based on the Robin Hood legend. It does not hold with tradition, however, when it comes to Azeem, the Moorish aristocrat who returns to England with Robin, after serving with him in the Crusades.

The inclusion of Azeem gives the script a chance to interject contemporary attitudes. It also allows Azeem, intelligently played Morgan Freeman, occasion to make wry observations on the savagery of the English.

The Celts are also a part of all this activity. They are hired as mercenaries -- by the sheriff -- when he decides to attack the bandits in their forest.

Again, all this adds to the film. Even if liberties are taken with the story, they are well chosen. It is the broad playing of Rickman that doesn't quite fit here, but he is very funny.

Sean Connery, who played an older Robin Hood in the 1976 "Robin and Marian," makes a brief appearance toward the close of the film. You'd have thought, from the reaction of the audience, that it was Paul McCartney.

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," is really two movies in one. Keep that in mind and you should enjoy it.

* The film opens here today.

"Robin Hood:

Prince of Thieves"

*** Robin Hood, the nobleman who became a bandit, saves England from the Sheriff of Nottingham.

CAST: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

DIRECTOR: Kevin Reynolds

RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

7+ RATING: PG-13 (violence, language, sex)

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