(1995)

Honor made him a man. Courage made him a hero. History made him a legend.

In the highlands of Scotland in the 1700s, Rob Roy tries to lead his small town to a better future, by borrowing money from the local nobility to buy cattle to herd to market. When the money is stolen, Rob is forced into a Robin Hood lifestyle to defend his family and honour.

Do not think that all sins go unpunished in this life, Montrose.
Rob Roy is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Alan Sharp. It stars Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Andrew Keir and Brian Cox. Music is by Carter Burwell and cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub.
Neeson is Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th Century Scottish historical figure who borrows £1,000 from the Marquis of Montrose (Hurt) with the plan to improve his clan's way of life. But the money is stolen in transit by the dastardly Archibald Cunnigham (Roth), so unable to repay the loan, Roy is forced to live as an outlaw. From such seeds are legends born.
Beautifully shot on location in parts of the Scottish Highlands, Rob Roy somewhat got lost in the slip stream of Mel Gibson's Braveheart. A shame, for although not as epic or as rousing as Gibson's Oscar grabber, Caton-Jones' film is a different and more reflective type of historical piece. Thematically the film is a play on virtues, in fact it's a trumpet playing fanfare for such. Honesty, honour, loyalty, fidelity and love nestle in nicely with the wonderful landscapes, born out by Sharp's intelligent script. But that's not to say that the director hasn't got the requisite thrust of stirring adventure within, he has, and Rob Roy rewards in that department as well. The films crowning glory is a climatic sword fight, no tricks or hard to believe heroics, just an expertly shot long sequence that's choreographed sublimely by William Hobbs and Robert G. Goodwin. While Carter Burwell's score sits nice with the visual treats - even if the Gaelic strains within the orchestration sound more Irish than Scottish...
Cast work well. Although Neeson looks the part as the robust Roy, there's no need for being dashing here, character calls for strength of mind and body, as well as emotional fortitude with the love of his family, and thus Neeson plays it with ease. Lange, an interesting casting choice as the missus, shorn of make up, yet still naturally sexy, she gives Mary MacGregor believable strength. However, it's undeniably Tim Roth's movie, part effeminate fop, part calculating bastard, his villainous turn as Archibald Cunningham has to be seen to be believed. He was rightly nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts. The rest impact well, Cox and Hurt, great pros as always, and Stoltz too isn't found wanting. There's some iffy accents at times, so what's new there? And if I'm to be churlish, then it often feels wrong in period. Yet they are small complaints in what is otherwise a smart and lovely splinter from the swashbuckling tree. 8/10

Talisman Productions, United Artists by Michael Caton-Jones, Alan Sharp.
Stars: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt.

Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama

Keywords: scotland biography 18th century highlands violent man scottish highlands

04/14/1995

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