Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#940. Rob Roy (1995)

Directed By: Michael Caton-Jones

Starring: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt

Tag line: "Honor made him a man. Courage made him a hero. History made him a Legend"

Trivia: Jason Flemyng took the part of an extra in the film in direct opposition to the wishes of his agent. Flemyng was determined to be in the film as it gave him a chance to act alongside Tim Roth, one of his idols

Rob Roy had the misfortune of being released the same year as another Scottish epic, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, which went on to win 5 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Director). And while it may lack the ambitious sweep of Gibson’s movie, Rob Roy is still a solid, well-acted film.

Liam Neeson stars as Rob Roy MacGregor, leader of an 18th Century Scottish clan, who solicits a loan from the British aristocrat, the Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt). Papers for the transaction are drawn up and signed, yet through the deception of Montrose's aides, Killearn (Brian Cox) and Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth), the money is stolen before it reaches MacGregor, leaving the clan leader broke and owing a debt to the powerful, corrupt Marquis. When Montrose offers him more money if he speaks out against the Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir), MacGregor refuses, and sets off into the Highlands to prove he’s been cheated. Unable to get to MacGregor, Montrose and his men take their frustrations out on his family instead. MacGregor's wife, Mary (a wonderful performance by Jessica Lange), is raped by Cunningham, then forced to watch as the Marquis' army burns their house to the ground. Pushed to his breaking point, MacGregor comes out of hiding to exact his revenge, and, with the Duke of Argyll’s support, challenges Cunningham to a duel.

Rob Roy is filled with strong characters, some honorable, others downright evil. John Hurt is at his diabolical best as the shifty Montrose, but its Tim Roth’s Cunningham you’ll truly despise, a wretched excuse for a nobleman with no integrity whatsoever (the smile on his face as he’s raping Mary Macgregor will have you seething) On the other side of the coin is Rob Roy MacGregor, a man of loyalty and principle excellently portrayed by Liam Neeson. The real show-stopper, however, is Jessica Lange as Mary MacGregor, a strong-willed woman deeply in love with her husband who, for the good of her family, remains quiet about the indignities she’s forced to endure. It’s yet another black eye for the Academy that Lange didn’t receive so much as a nomination for her work here. Shot in the gorgeous Highlands of Scotland, Rob Roy is also a beautiful motion picture, and, to top it off, contains one of the greatest swordfights in recent memory.

Braveheart may have been the Best Picture of 1995, but, in my opinion, this “other” Scottish film wasn’t too far behind it.

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