That something is Alan Rickman, as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
In my previous post, I kinda dumped on The Syfy Channel a bit, for the inclusion of distinctly non-science fiction items in its lineup, including that movie.
(In a conversation with a clerk at Barnes & Noble, I learned that a writer, asking one of the people running The Syfy Channel about why they had changed their name from The "Sci-Fi Channel", was told that "Sci-Fi" is considered shorthand for "Science-Fiction", implying that would be the content; whereas "Syfy" is in fact just a totally meaningless bit of noise, and gives them license to schedule whatever they wish. Okay ... )
Back to Alan then.
Of all the people in this movie, he alone appears to be actually having fun, being so deliciously nasty.
After the Sheriff has said he'll cut out Robin Hood's heart with a spoon ...
Guy of Gisborne: "Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?"
Sheriff: "Because it's DULL, you twit. It'll hurt more."
(Said with a sneer that only Alan Rickman can manage; he has an absolute lock on that.)
Sheriff: (to a wench) "You. My room. 10:30 tonight."
Sheriff: (to another wench) "You. 10:45 ... And bring a friend."
Upon hearing from a scribe about the relationship Robin Hood has with the people...
Sheriff: "Just a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, -- and they love him for it?"
The scribe nods.
Sheriff: "That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, -- and call off Christmas!!!"
One thing I'll always wonder: Was that last parting shot scripted?
Or, was Rickman on a roll at that time and he just ad-libbed it?
At times, he seems to be in an entirely different movie than the rest of the cast is, and almost succeeds in making this bloated epic truly watchable. Unfortunately, as with Ian McShane in the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, he can't do the job all by himself (although he does what he can).
What put him on the map was his role as Hans Gruber (one of the all-time great villains) in Die Hard (1988), opposite Bruce Willis...
Problem with getting on the map that way is the danger of typecasting. In Quigly Down Under (1990), opposite Tom Selleck, he played a villain with a mustache almost fit for twirling. He seemed to be at the top of any list for playing a back-stabbing, conniving SOB, and got quite a bit of work as such.
But, that's not the only side to him. Right after "Quigly", he appeared in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), wherein he was a ghost hanging around his girlfriend who really needed to get on with her life, but found it a bit difficult with him and his ghost friends around all the time, watching videos (what else do you do with all that time in the afterlife?) It was a sweet, warm role totally unexpected for the guy who played Hans Gruber.
His latest work has been as Professor Severus Snape, the "Darth Vader" of the Harry Potter series...
He's actually the most tragic figure in the story, very multi-layered (Yes! I'm quite aware that I use that phrase a lot; I'm drawn to characters that rate it). Rickman succeeds in the challenge of taking a character you've learned to hate, and making you almost weep for him near the end of the last movie.
What can I say? The man is simply so damned good.
UPDATE Thursday, 14 JAN 2016: I've just learned that Alan Rickman has left us today...
... FAR TOO SOON. Rest in peace, Sir. :-(
frown emoticon(Originally published 2102 CST 08 AUG 2011)