Reader Recommendations: “Rob Roy”

Hey, what’s going on everyone?

Today, I’m finally launching a new series that I’ve been procrastinating on for a long time, “Reader Recommendations”.

In the little over a year that I’ve been blogging, I’m constantly coming across movies I haven’t seen. Or movies I saw a long time ago and lost in the memory banks. In my various exchanges with everyone, there are recommendations being made frequently… I should check this out, I should check that out. And oftentimes, LOL, I respond with an “I will, I will”.

Well, one way to move that forward is to actually post about them when I watch. Turn the viewing into some “content”. And this series is designed to do just that. I’ll be asking a couple of questions of whomever recommends the movie, give them a chance to link back to anything they may have written on it, and then I’ll share my thoughts on the movie in a review!

First up is our buddy Le0pard13 of “It Rains… You Get Wet”. Le0p did a great piece on this movie awhile back, a very thorough, insightful analysis. I realized that if the movie could inspire that kind of a post from someone, maybe I shouldnt underestimate it. Perhaps I should circle back and check it out.

Click through to see what we had to say!

My questions in Bold. Le0pard13’s answers below each.

1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?

Sounds like a perfect excuse to do another TMT ;-). Yes, I do faintly remember going to the movie theater and watching this film on the big screen. I saw this the first weekend of its release in April of 1995. The movie hall probably wasn’t half full, either. Still, I found it a rousing tale. One where I cared for and had a stake with the lead husband (Liam Neeson) and wife (Jessica Lange) couple, and their tribulations. What is it they say (paraphrasing), “A story is more exciting if you think the hero may actually die.” Rob Roy certainly offered that.

2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?

As I said to others I’ve recommended the film to, Rob Roy offered a rousing adventure tale set in the highlands of Scotland during the 1700s. Yet, it also struck an emotional chord in me as a viewer with Alan Sharp’s story. Any tale that had elements of love, revenge, and redemption in it was just going to kick in what my wife calls the HBL (hot-blooded latin) reflex in me, and affix moi to the screen. Plus, it had a young and charismatic Liam Neeson in action-mode (as the title character) way before his later middle-age stints in the genre fully bloomed. Lastly, it had one of the all-time cinematic best villains of the last twenty years with Tim Roth as Archibald Cunningham.

3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?

I believe it is sorely under appreciated as a film. Look at what it faced that year: Mel Gibson’s Braveheart juggernaut (out just a month later in the prime summer movie month of May). Additionally, it was the other half of the Hollywood movie studio ‘Scottish self-determination’ concept in that year’s competition for moviegoers eyes and box office. Usually, the first film out wins such contests, but not always. Such happened here. Braveheart got the ticket sales and acclaim; Rob Roy didn’t. But, for me, they are on equally footing in their splendid historical narratives featuring Scot heroes. Rob Roy may have less action than its film compatriot, but its character development and dialogue does not take a backseat to anyone.

4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?

After discovering and reading your site for some months now, I knew you as film blogger who had an appreciation for good stories that featured nonpareil and distinctive action. Not to mention, you’re a fan of Mr. Neeson and his badassery of late ;-).

5) Have you written about the movie yourself? ( 😀 Insert plug here! LOL )

Oh, what a setup, my friend :-). Yeah, I published a two-parter for the film at the start of Summer over at my blog:
Rob Roy: The Rut of the Sword Part 1 and Part 2

The first segment examined some of the unique and intriguing undertones I found in Alan Sharp’s screenplay and Michael Caton-Jones’ wonderful direction. Part 2 looked at the other recognizably and stellar aspect of the film, its climatic sword-fight, which was under the expert helm of sword-fight master William Hobbs. It was and remain what author Steven Hart, and I, consider to be the best movie sword fight of all time.

Big thanks to Le0pard13 for recommending this! Now for my review!

“Rob Roy” is a period piece, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s.  It’s loosely based on events in the life of  Robert Roy MacGregor, a Scottish folk hero whose feuds with regional nobility became legendary.

In the film, Roy is a clansman and leader who can sense the economic landscape changing. He realizes that his people are potentially vulnerable to tragedy, should some unforseen hardship occur. He feels the need to do something to raise their station in life, and create a measure of wealth that they can rely on, so he decides to drive cattle between towns in order to capitalize on the price differential. All he’ll need is a loan from the local aristocrat, the Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt). In exchange, he’ll return a fair rate of interest that he earns from the proceeds.

Unfortunately for Roy, the Duke has a scheming underling (Brian Cox) and has an devilishly evil man in his court, Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth). Together, the two scheme to steal the loan and pin it on Roy’s right hand man (Eric Stoltz), who winds up being a tragic victim of their crime.

When the Marquis refuses to take the word of a highlander over the noblemen of his court following the theft, Rob Roy’s land are deemed forfeit in light of his failure to repay the loan. When Roy refuses to yield, Cunningham is sent to capture him. As evil nobility is wont to do, he burns Roy’s home, slaughters his livestock and… worse.

In order to keep his honor, Roy is driven to vengeance.

“Rob Roy” is a gorgeously shot movie. It was filmed on location in Scotland, and the scenic beauty is undeniable. It also features a fantastic cast. Neeson, at the time, wasn’t as big a star as he is now… He was coming off of “Schindler’s List”, but he wasn’t the draw he is today yet. Seeing him in a role like this was a real treat. A true selling point of the film. For fans of his, this is a must see. Jessica Lange is a two time Academy Award winner, and she shows it, making solid contributions to the drama as well. Tim Roth received an Oscar nom for his role as the skeevy Archibald Cunningham, although there were some times I thought the part was written to be a little too evil.

I can see why this film lost in the “stare down” with “Braveheart”, however. Aside from the respective marketability of the two leads (my, how that’s changed, huh?), “Rob Roy” is a more complex film, and much more thoughtfully paced. It also lacks the large-scale battles and inciting speeches that make “Braveheart” so rousing. Those elements together add up to a movie with narrower appeal for audiences.

Taken on its own merits though, this was a highly enjoyable and easily recommendable film. Neeson is fantastic, and though it’s leisurely paced, there are some truly memorable action moments. Especially the sword fights, which were truly fantastic. It’s a long film, and takes its time to establish the world and its characters, but in the end, it was an excellent watch. It’s a revenge story, a story about honor, and a tale of the common man who challenges the ruling class.


51 thoughts on “Reader Recommendations: “Rob Roy”

  1. Nice one Fogs. Great idea for a new feature (and I like that you’ve stuck with the alliteration in the title rule we spoke of before) Lol.
    Great choice to begin with. I love this film. It’s a shame it played second fiddle to Braveheart as it has it’s own qualities. Very underrated.

    • 😀 Le0p’s choice allowed me to kick the series off with the rare QUADRUPLE alliteration! Did you see that? Huh? Huh? 😀

      Good times.

      Had a feeling you might like this one… I dont know why. Hmmmm…

      • Haha! As it goes I did notice the four tier alliteration my friend. Very impressive indeed LOL.
        Yeah, I often wonder why I enjoy films with dudes in skirts man. Never quite explored that yet. 😉

  2. It does my heart good to hear something I recommended to you struck home, Fogs. I’m also honored that your inaugural post for this series (a fantastic idea, btw) began with this. I’m tickled pink! Thanks for this (and the link love), my friend.

    • Oh hey, man, thank YOU.

      After I saw the enthusiasm you had for it on your post, I knew it was a good movie I’d been missing out on. a) You have good taste in flicks b) Lame movies usually can’t muster up that kind of response.

      I’m happy I connected with it too… that’s already crossed my mind. LOL. One of these days, someone’s gonna recommend something and I’m going to have to tell them it sucks. LOL!! 😀

      Not today though, buddy, not today.

  3. Woo hoo!! What a way to start a new series, Fogs! Glad you love this movie, too. Huge thanks to Michael for kindly lending us the BD, how kind of him. This is perfect timing for my next edition of Everybody’s Chattin’ series 😉

    • Not me, I wont be thwartin’. In fact, I was already thinking of you here. You want to rep “Akira”? If so, I’m in, but its going to be a while… I dont know what kind of pace these will get cranked out at, and I have a couple in line already.

  4. I will totally recommend “Akira.” If there is only one anime you ever watch in your life, it should be that one. I suppose I’ll need to rewatch it (good thing I have the blu-ray!) and write up a review. Let me know if you want to do that.

    • If you wanna go that route, it’s up to you. We can coordinate, as we’ve done successfully before.

      My min requirements though are just an answer to the five questions Mike answered, so… up to you boss. Let me know. Again, probably at least a month away…

  5. I remember when this came out and was righteously indignant when Braveheart kicked its ass in the box office and in pop culture, as Rob Roy is clearly the more intelligent movie, and more accurate historically to boot.

    However, as time went on Braveheart found it’s way into my little D&D geek heart, and Rob Roy was forgotten. Now Mel Gibson is persona non grata on my TV (sadly), I may have to revisit Rob Roy as well. It certainly has been a while.

    • Amazing how the roles have changed. I would have never thunk it in ’95.

      I didnt even catch this one in 95. I presume the marekting was bad… I know it really didnt grab a foothold for itself in pop culture.

      Definitely is a solid flick though. Very enjoyable. 🙂

  6. One of my favorites too. While this is not quite as good as Robin Hood (The Errol Flynn version) it simply outclasses both Costner’s Robin Hood, as well as the lamented Russell Crowe version directed by Ridley Scott. Loved the music too. Thanks for the fine read Fog

    • No prob, Mike, I enjoyed watching it and working with Le0p on the post!

      I havent seen the Erol Flynn Robin Hood… its a classic I still need to catch up with. But those other two are both significantly flawed in one way or another.

      It definitely is a “classy” flick. I mean, there’s some pretty brutal stuff, of course. But the production values are impeccable.

      • You… haven’t seen… The Adventures of Robin Hood. Dude. Duuuuuuude. Yeah, that’s one you need to catch up with. I need to get my hands on a DVD of it so I can give it a Favorite Films post, it’s absolutely worthy of it.

      • LOL.

        Does that feel good?


        I imagine after so many times of me giving that to you, it must feel pretty sweet. 😀

        Yeah, get that puppy printed up, then maybe we can work it in to this series. I’ll check it out and link to your Favorite Films post, you know?

      • Yeah, it feels good to be able to throw that back at you once in a while. 😀

        A Favorite Films review will definitely happen one of these days. Not sure when, exactly; like I said, gotta get the DVD first. But fortunately I suspect you’ve got enough reader recs to last you a while yet. 😀

  7. Glad you finally got around to watching Rob Roy (and a great idea on how to present your reviews for these, by the by.) I actually saw Rob Roy before I saw Braveheart — if I remember right, my parents rented the latter about a month after RR. I like both quite a bit, but I have to agree with Michael that Rob Roy is criminally overlooked.

    I love the sword fight at the end of the movie; it’s one of the all time greats just because it deviates from some of the usual sword fighting tropes. I mean, Rob Roy is losing the fight pretty badly almost the entire way… don’t see that happen to the hero often, not in the climactic final duel. Then the sword catch, which is just a great dramatic moment… and then the film does what so few films do, and actually lets a claymore be used for the purpose it was designed for. It’s the sort of thing that leaves an impression, you know?

      • “I love the sword fight at the end of the movie; it’s one of the all time greats just because it deviates from some of the usual sword fighting tropes. I mean, Rob Roy is losing the fight pretty badly almost the entire way… don’t see that happen to the hero often, not in the climactic final duel.”

        How very true, Morgan. As someone said, that final sword fight is not centered on the violence, but the characters.

  8. I did see Braveheart first and I do like it more. One of the reasons being my wife is of clan Wallace. But Rob Roy has a class act of its own and is really very A worthy. One thing not to forget about the two, Braveheart occurs hundreds of years before Rob Roy’s time. I don’t know why but people think they’re of the same era and it’s not even close. Must be the kilts!

    • I imagine its because people are movie fans, not historians. It’s old Scotland, and old Scotland.

      Plus the timing of the releases created an association that lingers even now, almost twenty years later… so I imagine that’s why they get lumped together.

      Definitely a cool flick though, and worthy of a place in pop culture all its own.

  9. I remember proudly seeing Rob Roy opening night. Having had a keen interest in Scottish history at the time (only slightly more so then now), I tried to get a few friends to go with me to see it, too. Sadly, they couldn’t, but that has never stopped me before, or since.

    I also remember seeing Braveheart and thinking it was quite good but not quite as enjoyable. This movie but Neeson and Roth both on my radar, and I have appreciated the vast majority of their respective filmographies. Sure, there is a stinker on occasion, but with those two it is fairly rare. I have Rob Roy to thank for multiple gratifying cinematic experiences.

    I fully agree that this is a woefully under-appreciated movie with respect to pop culture. Thanks to all here for doing our little part to correct that. Honor truly is a gift a man gives himself.

    • 😀 Thats a great line, isnt it? He was a cool character.

      Personally, I still think Braveheart is better, though it’s CLEARLY more… Hollywooded up. You know? Definitely a more populist movie.

      I wish Mel Gibson wasnt a crazy ass. He’s not even a fun crazy, like Charlie Sheen was.

      I imagine if this movie HAD been a big hit, the Liam Neeson phenomenon would have hit much sooner and been much much bigger. Schindler’s list and then this? Boom!

      • I think that it is the “Hollywooded up” aspect that I found a little slice of off-putting. Don’t get me wrong, I did like it, quite a bit, but I just liked Rob Roy that much more.

        Since Gibson’s cheese fell off his cracker its just been pathetic. With the exception of the Mad Max series and Lethal Weapon 1 & maybe 2, I have never been overly impress with most of the movies he has done. Some have been good, plenty have been bad, and a few have been meh. I also thing the Charlie Sheen crazy is petheti-sad, for the record.

        While its true that Neeson might have gotten noticed earlier, I prefer to think of this movie as proof that he deserves the recognition that he has earned since.

      • Keep in mind about ‘Braveheart’ that Gibson, no doubt pressured by the studio and the results of the preview audience feedback (some walked out) significantly modified the ‘hung, drawn, and quartered’ sequence in the film. In real-life, what actually happened to those punished for treason in England was a tad more gruesome than depicted in Mel’s production.

  10. Pingback: Weekly Weblinks: Comics and Coens | Morgan on Media

  11. Howdy Fogs! Yeah I remember this came out in a time when a lot of films seemed to have evil twins. “Deep Impact” “Armageddon” , “Volcano” “Dante’s Peak” etc. Usually only one is decent, and I thought this was to be the poor man’s “Braveheart” for sure……man was I wrong. Glad you enjoyed this one!

    • Markus! How you been, buddy? Good to see you.

      I like the “evil Twin” theory 😀 there always definitely is an inferior one, too. This year it was “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”… though neither was great, “mirror mirror” was definitely the inferior of the two.

      Thats a perfect phrasing for it, I always suspected this was the poor man’s Braveheart, too. Nope! It was really good. Glad youre on board with it too. Mike made a nice pick to kick us off!

  12. Have to chime in with my own Duuuuuuuuuude. Excited for you, getting to see Errol Flynn et al in Robin Hood for the first time. It doesn’t get much better than that. I might have to float the theory: If a movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood doesn’t have Eugene Pallette in it somewhere, can it truly be a classic? 🙂
    I may have to revisit Rob Roy. I didn’t love it when it came out, sorry to say, though yes the cliimactic sword fight was great.
    Nice start to the series! I’ve already picked up some wonderful items for my watchlist through your site so thanks for that.

  13. Thanks to my generous son, I have a copy of this movie which I watch over and over again. Liam has always been a fav actor of mine. Liked it much better than Braveheart. Thought Mel was too small for the part.

  14. Hell yeah, glad you finally got this series started up, man! Between your post and Michael’s, this film has definitely hit my radar. I’m going to try to catch it soon… sounds like I have been really missing out!

    Psst… I hope you didn’t forget about our little deal 😀 I’m still up for doing that if you are!

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