Portentous 16th Century historical from helmer/co-scripter Arnaud des Pallières is well mounted, but dies a slow death trying to be the art-house ROBIN HOOD/BRAVEHEART Robert Bresson never got around to making.* A Frenchified take on real-life German merchant Hans Kohlhase, it mixes MAGNA CARTE/William Tell terroirs with a soupçon of Thomas More. As the wronged horse trader who raises a people’s army against a callous young Baron, Mads Mikkelsen is gravely noble from every lank of his stylish salt & pepper hair to his flat, indomitable abdomen, a buff man for all seasons. (No wonder he grabbed at the chance to play against type as pseudo-intellectual creep Hannibal Lecter on tv.) But natural movie star grace only goes so far with a director who’s not exactly generous in the info department. Avoiding any hint of pace or excitement, a much needed set piece, like an attack on a fortified estate, comes across as æsthetic corruption instead of cauterizing revenge. It’s all first-rate bloodless embalming.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *No diss meant on Bresson who put out thrilling kinetic set-pieces in early works like A MAN ESCAPED/’56 and PICKPOCKET/’59. Though, admittedly, by the time he made his own medieval art-house pic, LANCELOT DU LAC/’74, he’d lost his taste (or was it his touch?) for such things.