ROB ROY is a story set in the Scottish Highlands in the year 1713.
It tells the story of a legendary figure known as Rob Roy. How much of
the story is true and how much myth, I have no idea, but I am ready to
accept it all as fact since it seemed plausible enough to me and its
degree of truth was irrelevant.
Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) is a man who values his honor about all
else. It is more important to him than his wife Mary (Jessica Lange),
his children, and his native Scotland - all of whom he loves dearly.
In order to make money buying and selling cattle, he borrows 1,000
pounds for 3 months at 20 percent interest from the evil Marquis of
Montrose (John Hurt) and pledges on his honor and with all 300 acres of
his land as collateral to pay it back in time.
The Marquis has a visitor from England, Cunningham (Tim Roth), who
is a prissy and penniless young man that has gotten into trouble. He
parents have sent him north so that he will cool off and straighten his
life out under the care of the Marquis. Other than thievery and
murder, Cunningham's main claim to fame is that he is a swordsman of
Many good minor characters including Rob Roy's right hand man
McDonald (Eric Stolz). and the Marquis's "factor" Killearn (Brian
Cox). A factor is a Scottish assistant I guess. The nobility kept
saying things like, "I'll have my factor talk to your factor." Kept
making me think of prime numbers.
You can probably guess what happens to the 1,000 pounds. Suffice
it to say it is the catalyst for this entire episode of Rob Roy's life,
and it is a rollicking good tale as they say.
On the whole I liked ROB ROY, but was disappointed since I expect
more. As a soap opera a la an average Masterpiece Theater episode, it
works nicely. The cinematography (Roger Deakins and Karl Walter
Lindenlaub) is lovely without overpowering. We get a lot of vistas and
a lot fog. Although charming, I think it could have been even more
powerful given the inherent beauty of that part of Scotland.
The acting is good all round. Lange and Hurt, who are wonderful
actors and who have a tendency to overact, were carefully controlled in
their emotions in this adaptation. Neeson is always good, and he was
here as well.
Easily, the most impressive job was the acting of Tim Roth. He
owned every scene he was in. He had a boyish grin and yet he was the
devil incarnate. His performance reminded me some of Ralph Fiennes as
the concentration camp leader in SCHINDLER'S LIST. He had that same
appearance of I look sweet on the surface but I may slit your throat at
any minute and without provocation.
My main problem with the show was the directing (Michael
Caton-Jones) and the editing (Peter Honess). I found that I did not
empathize with the characters as they seemed sort of distant. Given
all that happened in the show, I should have gotten angry at the
villains and scared for the good people. Instead, I found myself with
a feeling of interest yet detachment. It is hard to put my finger on
why other than it seemed too much like a slow soap opera. The editing
pace added to the problems. Much more of the footage should have been
left on the cutting room floor.
Other than the Academy Award nomination quality performance by Tim
Roth, there is one other outstanding aspect to the movie - the sword
fight scene. There is more than one, but the long one is the one to
which I am referring. It is, without doubt, the best sword fight I
have ever seen. This time, the editing and the sound effects editing
were outstanding. Listen to the sounds of the steel against a
background of silence broken only by the fighters breathing. The
choreography of this sequence was marvelous.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes