The 1990’s was the golden era for historical epics and many of these films, whilst based on actual historical figures and events, were often romantic retellings of these events with the British Empire/Crown being the primary villains and the heroes being noble warriors who were often Scottish, Irish or Daniel Day-Lewis. Rob Roy is one of the finest examples of these historical epics and whilst it is a highly romantised telling of the legend of Robert Roy MacGregor it is a highly enjoyable film to watch.
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones, starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange and Tim Roth and released in April 1995, a whole two months before Mel Gibson’s epic Braveheart, yet Rob Roy became known as the ‘other Scottish film’. Caton-Jones’ film follows the story of Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) who tries to make living better for his community by borrowing money from the local lord (John Hurt) to raise and sell cattle, however once the money is stolen Rob must fight to defend his family and honour.
Rob Roy is a very memorable film, mostly for the devilishly evil performance from Tim Roth who plays the films key villain Cunningham which he received an Oscar nomination for his performance. Cunningham is one of cinemas most vile villains, there is nothing likeable about him as he brutally slays peasants, rapes Rob’s wife and even though John Hurt’s Montrose knows that it was he who actually stole the money that Rob borrows from him he still defends Cunningham.
Of all the historical epics released during the 1990’s, Rob Roy is one of the most gritty films released, amongst the beautiful Scottish locations the film is filled with some of the most vile dialogue be it an insult or describing a person or sexual act and some strong violence that includes one of the most disturbing rape scenes you will ever see on screen. These don’t hurt the film as it makes it a bit more realistic when comparing it to other films like Braveheart.
Rob Roy is one of my favourite films that I stumbled across purely by accident one night on TV and it is a film that enjoy watching over and over again. Liam Neeson gives one of his best performances of his career as does Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Brian Cox and Brain McCardie but the film does belong to Tim Roth and this remains his best performance. Michael Caton-Jones does a perfect job directing the film which like his actors performances remains his best film as director only to be topped by 2005 drama Shooting Dogs which also stars John Hurt. The film also contains one of the finest sword fights in cinema history and has yet to be bested.
Review written by Christopher Innis