While King Richard the Lionheart is away from home fighting in the Crusades, somebody's got to keep the fair citizens in line. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) provides the protection and keeps the peace in his absence, that is, if starving, robbing, and murdering the people is the kind of protection you're looking for. One poor victim of the Sheriff's greed for power is the father of Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner). If you're not with the Sheriff, you're against him, and Robin would find his father dead against him. Robin would take the earliest opportunity to annouce his return with a strike against Guy of Gisborne (Michael Wincott), the Sheriff's cousin and right-hand man.
Vowing revenge but in search of shelter, Robin and his friends head into the mysterious Sherwood Forest. Many believe it is haunted, but Robin discovers the only thing it's haunted by is a gang of outcasts. His fighting skills win their respect and, when he announces his plans to take down the Sheriff, they're ready to follow his lead. Soon, Robin gets close enough to the Sheriff to leave a scar across his cheek; the Sheriff retaliates by terrorizing the lands with more of his own men. Finally, the people have had enough of the oppression and the Sheriff has had enough of their insolence.
The most compelling point about our villain here, however, is how over the top his rage is. Power has not only corrupted the Sheriff, it has saturated him. Greed and arrogance ooze out of every pore and, like any political leader, he often hides behind his men until it's safe enough for him to fight on his own. He is often sweaty and greasy-looking, taking advantage of the female servants, hanging on the every word of his old crone fortune teller, or hanging out with Guy of Gisborne, the cousin following in his wicked footsteps. Rage overtakes the Sheriff whenever he hearsnew news about Robin of Locksley and his merry men. Following another report of Robin's activities, he punishes the people with his own brand of terror: "Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!"
In the climactic part of this story, the Sheriff has taken Marian hostage and plans to personally hurt Robin in the worst way he can think of: by marrying the woman he loves. Just as the ceremony takes place between Marian and - ahem - George, Robin and his men storm the castle, leading to one of your classic swashbuckling encounters with swords, fire, and all that kind of thing. Robin eventually ends George's tenure as Sheriff by stabbing him through the heart. One might not have guessed his heart was vulnerable to attack, but Robin Hood proved them wrong.
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