Near the end of “Rob Roy,” the film mimics a sequence that is practically an institution in actionadventure films. It’s the climatic fight to the death between the hero and the villain.
During this prolonged and bloody fight, the hero will be beaten/cut/shot almost to the point of death by the bad guy, who remains nearly unscathed. And just when it seems all is lost and the weary hero will die . . . well, you know what happens.
“Rob Roy” does contain that element, and the plot is pretty standard, too, for an adventure movie. But the novelty that saves “Rob Roy” and makes it enjoyable is the fact that the film is set in the Scottish Highlands in 1712.
If “Rob Roy” was set in the present (and with its story, it very well could be), there would be lots of guns and profanity, and the film would be nothing we haven’t seen before. But with the historical setting, we get swords and horses and neat costumes.
True, we have seen historical adventure films before. But this is by far one of the best. Remember “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”? Obviously the competition to be the best in this genre is not tough, and “Rob Roy” is well-acted and technically very good, which quickly brings it to the top of the list.
“Rob Roy” is the story of Robert MacGregor, a Scottish type of Robin Hood. He takes out a loan from a Duke to make an investment that will hopefully turn a profit he can use to help his poor fellow peasants. But the money is stolen by visiting English aristocracy, and Rob Roy still has to pay it back.
Knowing of the conspiracy, Rob tries to prove it and is soon on the run, the target of a manhunt led by the evil Archibald Cunningham, the man who stole the money.
This premise, of course, brings plenty of sword fights, chases, captures and escapes.
As Rob Roy, Liam Neeson (“Darkman,” “Schindler’s List”) is terrific. He is believable as an honorable Scottish hero and brings sensitivity to his role as well. Matching his talents is Oscar winner Jessica Lange as his wife, Mary. Mary is tough and capable, and she figures prominently in areas other than the love story.
Tim Roth (Mr. Orange in “Reservoir Dogs” and Honey Bunny in “Pulp Fiction”) plays the evil Cunningham. He is sick and brutal, but Roth’s performance is also hilarious in areas and constantly humorous. And the humor is not the regular kill-someone-and-thenmake-a-joke routine that action film bad guys usually resort to.
The supporting acting, especially by one of the greatest actors ever, Eric Stoltz (“Pulp Fiction,” “Killing Zoe”), is also strong.
The novelty of “Rob Roy” as a period piece and the talent that went into it make this production supremely entertaining. Highly recommended. Grade: A-
ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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