Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Following Rutger Hauer’s death earlier this year, I bought several of his more obscure films, and tonight, I finally got around to watching one of them: Flesh+Blood, directed by Paul Verhoeven (of RoboCop and Starship Troopers fame).
What a fantastic swashbuckling adventure! Basically, the narrative takes the iconography of the Robin Hood myth and places it in a more “grounded” and “realistic” historical setting (relatively speaking, of course). In this context, the Merry Men are a band of bloodthirsty mercenaries—marauders, murderers, and rapists that sell their skills to the highest bidder (the group even includes a sword-swinging preacher, though his religious views are a tad… extreme compared to Friar Tuck’s). That being said, the hypocritical noblemen that employ their services are hardly any better, depriving them of their promised payment and banishing them when they rightfully protest, so it’s difficult to blame them for seeking retribution. The movie’s answer to Maid Marian is also a far cry from the traditional blushing, innocent damsel; this version of the character is a kidnapped princess, using her wits and wiles to survive in the company of her barbaric captors.
Featuring cinematography that evokes Seven Samurai and Chimes at Midnight, Flesh+Blood’s immaculate craftsmanship compensates for its occasional lapses into excess and exploitation; enjoying it requires a strong tolerance for sex, violence, and sexual violence, but if you can look beyond the surface-level brutality, you’ll discover a fascinating and surprisingly nuanced moral dialectic.