In 1713 Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor is wronged by a nobleman and his nephew, becomes an outlaw in search of revenge while fleeing the Redcoats, and faces charges of being a Jacobite.In 1713 Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor is wronged by a nobleman and his nephew, becomes an outlaw in search of revenge while fleeing the Redcoats, and faces charges of being a Jacobite.In 1713 Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor is wronged by a nobleman and his nephew, becomes an outlaw in search of revenge while fleeing the Redcoats, and faces charges of being a Jacobite.
The film does not follow Scott's plot but is loosely based on the facts of the real MacGregor's life. In 1713 Rob Roy, a clan chief in the Scottish Highlands, is financially ruined by the machinations of the unscrupulous Marquess of Montrose and his villainous protégé Archibald Cunningham. (Cunningham is fictitious but Montrose was another real person). Cunningham has been described as an "aristocrat", but this is not really accurate because, for all his dandyish appearance and foppish mannerisms, he is really the illegitimate son of a prostitute and does not know who his real father is. Montrose has probably taken him under his wing because he recognises in him a kindred spirit, equally unscrupulous and even more ruthless.
When Rob Roy is unable to repay the money he owes, Montrose has him declared an outlaw, seizes his land and slaughters his cattle; Cunningham brutally rapes his wife Mary. Rob Roy and his followers, who have fled into hiding in the mountains, wage a guerrilla campaign of revenge against Montrose, stealing his cattle and other property.
This was one of two historical films with a Scottish setting made in 1995, the other being the Oscar-winning "Braveheart". The two films share one feature, namely a somewhat disapproving attitude towards homosexuality, which today makes them look rather old-fashioned, even though they were only made around twenty years ago. In "Braveheart" the future King Edward II is portrayed as stereotypically weak and effeminate, whereas here the treacherous Cunningham is gratuitously made bisexual, a lover of boys as well as women, a piece of characterisation which the scriptwriter presumably thought would make him seem all the nastier.
That said, I must say that I found "Rob Roy" a considerably better film than the much-hyped "Braveheart". Mel Gibson's epic is a reasonably entertaining adventure story, but it does have its faults, quite apart from its many historical inaccuracies. It is overlong by at least half an hour, and the acting is of a variable standard. In "Rob Roy" Caton-Jones paces the action in a more satisfactory way than does Gibson, and the acting is also a lot better. I was not too keen on Tim Roth's performance, as I felt that he made Cunningham a bit too much of a one-dimensional pantomime villain, but there are three outstanding contributions from Neeson, Jessica Lange and John Hurt.
Despite his status as Chief of Clan MacGregor, Rob Roy lives simply in a modest house which contrasts sharply with Montrose's elaborate palace. The code by which he lives is equally simple- honesty, loyalty and honour; when Montrose offers to forgive Rob's debt if Rob will testify falsely against one of Montrose's enemies, Rob indignantly refuses. Hurt's Montrose appears to be an elegant, courtly gentleman, but his surface sophistication hides a ruthless opportunist who will use other people in any way he can, provided it is to his advantage. Mary MacGregor could simply have come across as a hapless victim and little else, but Lange (who copes well with the Scottish accent) instead plays her as a tough, independent-minded woman who frequently disagrees with her husband even though she loves him dearly.
The sword-fighting scenes, particularly the climactic duel between Rob Roy and Cunningham, were well handled; the film-makers clearly realised that the Scottish claymore was a heavier weapon than the duelling rapiers more commonly seen on screen and called for a different fighting style. Overall this is a splendid, stirring historical yarn on the themes of honour, love and loyalty. 8/10
- May 6, 2017