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What can one say about a film that has one of the blackest, most nihilistic, and occasionally most weirdly -I wont say 'sympathetic'..I will say 'charismatic' villains in the history of the Cinema, and the best sword fight since Flynn and Fairbanks were in their heyday? This is an epic about a stubborn, sometimes foolish, incredibly courageous and honest mans fight for his honor and freedom against tyranny. I loved it. John Hurt and Tim Roth were great villains. Jessica Lange was very moving, tender, and sensual.
Overshadowed by "Braveheart" released the same year, the two costume dramas beg comparison. I admit my bias against Mel Gibson, yet I maintain a rational preference for "Rob Roy." Both "Braveheart" and "Rob Roy" compellingly depict Scots history in bloody, romantic fashion. "Braveheart" is an epic paean to individual honor and courage and a fine revenge fantasy. It's also melodramatic, anachronistic and maudlin. Note its cornball usage of slow motion filming. Its violence is both ugly and glorious. It is the latter quality which makes it more appealing to the adolescent mindset. While "Braveheart" surpasses "Rob Roy" in sheer levels of carnage (not to mention its indulgent running time), the latter film is ultimately more mature and satisfying. Its action is more understated, yet more surprising and clever. Its sex is less showy, yet more erotic. "Rob Roy" also has a better realized romantic interest. Its dialog attempts to approximate the poetry of the period. Its rotted teeth in the mouths of the actors attempt to approximate the dentistry of the era. And Tim Roth is a superlative villain. Also recommended: "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Patriot." You may find the latter more akin to "Braveheart" with its emphasis on blood lust, with the former more similar to "Rob Roy" in tone. All the of the aforementioned movies merit their R ratings for violence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
MAJOR SPOILERS!! THIS IS FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE!!
Commenters have touched on the major theme of "honor" in the film, and too many comparisons to "Braveheart." I'll point out a few things about this movie that I have not seen other comments touch on:
This movie has a decidedly different take on abortion. The first character to get pregnant is the villain's (Roth) girlfriend, and when he coldly suggests an abortion, she states it is too late for that. The shame of her situation ("I'm to have a bastard's bastard.") leads her to commit suicide in a much later scene. The second character to find herself pregnant is Mary, Rob's wife, after a rape by Roth's character (and at least one sex scene with her husband, Rob). Late in the movie, as Rob is leaving for a final confrontation with Roth, Mary asks what she should do about the pregnancy of questionable origins, with a tone hinting of abortion. Rob replies in a noble tone, "it's not the fault of the child," and then states what he thinks the name should be, girl or boy. I find this "pro-life" stance on the part of the hero to be very un-Hollywood. Rob walks from the darkness of the house to the bright outside to make this comment -- not coincidental symbolism.
Another related theme is Roth's character is a bastard, someone who evidently does not know who his father was, and has few kind words for his mother, though he wears a picture of her in a case hung from his neck. Is it coincidence that Roth (devoid of family stability) is the walking definition of psychopath, while Rob is the strong husband/father figure, and of course the hero. In the final sword fight between Rob and the villain (Roth), the former slices the latter deeply across the chest -- the left side of the chest, over the heart. His employer and pseudo-father figure (John Hurt character) holds the mother's picture in his hand and gazes at it, before snatching it from the neck of the dead Roth.
Also what I find interesting was the direction of the rape scene, which was not quite graphic but neither was it off-camera and implied. I found it surprising in it's somewhat matter of fact depiction, with Mary convincingly showing the characteristics of someone going through the ordeal, and subsequent post traumatic stress (as we call it now). My point being that the rape was neither sensationalized nor just implied, which I find an interesting middle road for Hollywood to take.
In the final fight scene, I have to correct an earlier commenter: The weapon Roth chose was a rapier (or perhaps a short sword), the weapon Rob chose was a Claymore. Someone was really doing their homework on this entire scene. Roth would have the upper hand in such a situation, but of course the Claymore is a distinctly Scottish weapon. What is even more striking to me (as a fencer and someone who has read a bit on the subject) is that this final sword fight is one of the most convincing of any film ever made: The actors seem actually trying to kill each other -- not the usual slashes to the opponents blade we see in most movie fights (including the movies opening fight). Even more true to history, Roth is seen several times using the rapier as a thrusting weapon, which is it's purpose by design! (Rapiers were edged, but primarily a thrusting weapon with the edges used mainly for parrying an opponents thrust.) Rob uses the Claymore in broad slashes, as it's design intent. The fight goes down as I would expect it to -- Roth effectively wins. Though Rob wins the day by grabbing Roth's weapon (more symbolism) and striking him dead with a powerful slashing cut.
Folks, it is RARE to see this level of historical accuracy in a movie sword fight.
I'll also note that for whatever reason, I remember 1995 (the year of release) distinctly as a time of distrust of the U.S. government. Hollywood was obviously tuned into that, with the release of both "Rob Roy" and "Braveheart," and I think the anti-government leanings are why both films get so much comparison.
I think the different perspective that this film gives is refreshing to avid movie fans, tired of the same old, not so hidden messages from Hollywood.
This is one powerful film. The first time I saw it, the Scottish
accents made it tough for me to understand a lot and that ruined the
viewing experience. I gave up on it but then acquired the DVD, used the
English subtitles when I needed them, and really got into this movie,
discovering just how good it is. It is excellent.
The widescreen picture makes it spectacular in parts, with some wonderful rugged scenery and the story reminded me of Braveheart, an involving tale of good versus evil. Here, it's Liam Neeson (good) vs. Tim Roth (evil). Both do their jobs well.
Few actors come across as despicable as Roth. Man, you really want to smack this guy in his arrogant, irritating puss. (He is so nasty and vile the sick critics love his character more than anyone else's here). Neeson is a man's man and a solid hero figure as Gibson was in Braveheart. Jessica Lange is strong in here as the female lead. The movie draws you in and gets you totally involved, so prepared to have an emotional experience viewing this.
This sweeping drama has it all: top notch acting, incredible photography, good story. It is often compared to "Braveheart" because both movies take place in historical Scotland. Even though I love Braveheart, I think this is the better of the two films. Jessica Lange gave an incredible performance (should have been nominated for an Oscar). Liam Neeson is fantastic in the title role. Tim Roth plays one of the most evil, despicable, characters in film history (he was nominated for an Oscar). John Hurt is excellent as Lord Montrose, another dislikeable character. I am always amazed at the incredible range of characters that John Hurt can play. This is a story of a dispute over money between Rob Roy and his clan, and Lord Montrose. Rob Roy is a self made man, who will not solve his problems with Montrose if it violates his sense of honor. Montrose, who, inherited his title, has no sense of honor. And that is basically what this story is all about; honor of the common man versus corruption of the nobility. This movie is very entertaining, it should appeal to all. It has romance, action, beautiful scenery, and has a exciting plot. One of my favorite films.
This is a very good, under-rated action/drama/and slightly historical
The basic story concerns Rob Roy's borrowing of 1000 pounds, its theft, and the problems it causes for his family and indirectly his clansmen.
Cunningham( Tim Roth) is an amazing villain and character in this story. Brutally cold and if you watch his face he seems to be able to turn his eyes off and look completely evil.
Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) is excellent too, but i think the writers used the word "honour" 1 too many times.
The rest of the cast is strong, and the whole movie is very well acted and filmed.
The Action is exciting and the sword play very realistic, but not too gory. The story is good and you really want Rob to win.
All in all just shy of a classic.
Well done, scenic, finely made film, Liam Neeson is great here and shoulda
had the same basic part in Phantom Menace, he is a force of nature here.
Roth is a great nasty, Hurt too. I thought the assault scene on Jessica was
tough to watch but that crap did happen. The British were tyrants up in the
High Heather in the 1700s even as they were in the 1300s in 'Bravehearts'
I see this as a bit of a forerunner to Braveheart, though they came out at about the same time, it shoulda done better at the box office and ditto at the Oscars.
***1/2, and boys...that final fight between Roth and Liam...my o my.
Its not Braveheart( thankfully),but it is fine entertainment with engaging characters and good acting all around. I enjoyed this film when it was released and upon viewing it again last week,find it has held up well over time. Not a classic film,but a very fine and watchable movie to enjoy as great entertainment.
This is one of my favorite movies of all time -- it far outshines Braveheart which made more money and got more attention. Liam Neeson is just exudes manliness in this movie, and if I was Jessica Lange I'd have been liftin' me skirts all the time too. Her portrayal of Mary McGregor is just beautiful -- turns out Mary is just as strong as the man she married. Tim Roth is a little exaggerated as the evil Archie Cunningham but still manages to be believable. I think the two most underrated actors in this film were Eric Stoltz as McDonald and Brian Macardie as Rob Roy's younger brother. The scene in the woods where Cunningham is pursuing MacDonald is simply agonizing to watch, and brilliantly filmed. MacArdie's compassion for Mary McGregor when he learns her secret is so moving, you just want to cuddle the guy and pat him on the head. The final swordfight between Rob and Archibald is amazing, one of the best movie fights I've ever seen -- yes, it's bloody, but death tends to be. Rent this! If you are a Brian Macardie fan, check out Kidnapped.
The peasants are depicted just as they were: dirty, sickly, thin and gross looking. Rob is the enforcer for his noble the Marquis of Montrose played well by Hurt. When Rob sees the suffering of his clan, he makes the ill fated choice to borrow a thousand pounds from Montrose whose slimy attendant Cox happily whispers in Cunningham's ear that the money can be his if he waylays Rob's man coming home with sacks of coin instead of a check. Roth steals the movie as one nasty piece of work; a resentful bastard, the source of his anger, who uses his sword for money fighting duels for nobles. He is as ruthless with his gear, impregnating a servant girl and driving her to suicide when he laughs at his responsibility. Montrose mistakes Rob as being like he is: a land lusting slime who cares not who or what gets hurt in his quest to increase his holdings and station. Listen to him,"Oh, a man of property bent upon growing richer, we are not so different after all." This is followed by a wicked chuckle. Yes, after Cunningham murders Rob's courier with the bags of coins, Montrose proffers an easy way out; simply bear false witness against the Duke Of Argyll, who Montrose is looking to supplant by slandering him all over as a Jacobite or a loyalist to the King in exile. It matters not a whit to him that Argyll may be killed by his slander, that is precisely what he is hoping for.
Rob refuses, to Montrose's amazement,"Oh, ply me not with your honor," Rob is forced to flee, his house is burned and his wife Mary is raped by Cunningham. The movie culminates in a duel to the death between Rob and the fop. The best scene is where Archie has Rob down on the ground defeated, awaiting Montrose's permission for the death blow, Rob grabs the blade, blood gushing from his hand, rises majestically to his feet, and with a roar cleaves Cunningham almost in two. See, all the suffering visited upon Rob, the years of suffering, the flight and torture forged Rob into a formidable protector whose endurance for pain crushes the fop. Look at the look of incredulous terror on Archie's face. He cannot believe the pain the man can endure. The movie is a masterpiece of acting and writing. It models real nobility predicated upon deeds of goodness versus the empty facsimile of hereditary nobility that often cloaks slimy reprobates lusting after land with titles they did neither earn nor merit. The film is not preachy; Caton Jones has Rob teaching his children honor at the beginning; the bulk of the lesson are the deeds Rob performs over his helpless ones.
He refuses to have what little he has in his poor, hungry, cold life destroyed: his honor; he loathes nobles but he will not bear false witness for he knows it is but the first of depravities Montrose has in mind for him. How do you think Archie and Montrose got to be the monsters they are? One step down at a time, Rob says, no thank you, I do not have much but that you never take from me. Yes, it models real nobility which the genetic facsimile pales before. It also shows you if you wish to stand over the helpless you better be ready for pain, injustice and keep holding the sword above their heads with every ounce of your strength. Despite its sex and violence and the R Rating, cover your kids eyes during those parts. This movie teaches what it is to be a real Protector. A Protector who stands over the helpless until he falls. Real nobility inside of each of us not the worthless facsimile. Michael Caton Jones' Best Movie.
"All That Doth Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger." Nietzsche
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