Max Von SydowBy strict dictionary definition, a rogue is a dishonest or unprincipled man, but it can also mean a likable, if disreputable character, especially in movies. Russell Crowe has often played rogues, for example, so we could say he's playing against type in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood by playing the legendary figure as a stoic, principled hero. That leaves the rest of the movie wide open for a gallery of rogues to steal the show.

Sadly, the new version of Robin Hood needs all the playfulness it can get. It's a ponderous, muddy mess, as our own John Gholson explained in his review. Yet there are shafts of glorious light that shine through the darkness, and my favorite is Max Von Sydow, playing a character you might describe as the senior rogue in the picture. (By the way, the image accompanying this article does not represent how he looks in Robin Hood.)

As the blind Sir Walter Loxley, we first see him with his daughter-in-law, Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett). Soon thereafter, he receives Robin into his home by bellowing at him from another room. When he meets Robin face to face, Robin gives Loxley tragic news about his estranged son. Von Sydow, who appears frail yet hardy, stiffens and then softens, almost imperceptibly, absorbing the blow, assimilating the information, and resolving, within himself, how he will deal with it. It's a marvelous piece of acting, making a small moment memorable.

Then he turns on the charm.
Sir Loxley is a practical man, and it doesn't take him long to size up Robin and seize the opportunity at hand. His newly widowed daughter-in-law needs a husband in order to inherit the Loxley estate, and Loxley himself could use the help, so he proposes that Robin pretend to be the long-lost Loxley son.

Even though Von Sydow is wearing discolored lenses in his eyes, to approximate the appearance of a blind man, you can see his eyes glint. When Von Sydow chuckles, his entire body rattles. He needs help getting around, yet he still seems to emanate a reserve of strength. This is a man who has lived a long, courageous life, no doubt filled with its share of hardships and horrors. Still, he takes great delight in fostering the romance that buds between Robin and Marion, teasing and encouraging.

Von Sydow recently turned 81 and is as busy as ever. He's fluent in multiple languages and has made pictures all over the world; most recently he was seen in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island as a shadowy German psychiatrist. He's often played authority figures, both religious and secular; perhaps that's because he has such a commanding presence. It's not just his height -- he stands 6 feet 4 inches -- it's his bearing, the way he can square his shoulders and look another person in the eye and tell them believable lies.

There are other rogues in Robin Hood, but Max Von Sydow is the one who will remain in memory the longest.