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MOVIE REVIEW:Rob Roy
"Rob Roy" is a competently done and, in its own way, entertaining
historical melodrama. It is not, I would say, particularly significant
because although it boasts great performances and a fantastic – an
*utterly* fantastic – final sword fight between Liam Neeson and Tim
Roth, there is not very much for it to call its own. It's a nice little
film with some key highlights, however I would not encourage people to
go out of their way to see it. I'd say see it if you want to and have a
good time, but there are better films of the same type like Mel
Gibson's "Braveheart" and Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" out there that
have a lot more to brag about.
The best thing about "Rob Roy," I think, would be its incredibly
accurate portrayal of life during the 18th century. The detail that the
director and production designer pay attention to in regards to the
sets, costumes, and rather intrinsically rough lifestyle that people
endured back then is very commendable. One such example that is
commendable because it is disturbing is when our villain, played with
magnificence by Tim Roth, gets out of bed and has to urinate into a
beside bowl, which he then hands off to his associate. It's disgusting
and unpleasant, but it serves a purpose for it shows how things were
like back in those times.
Tim Roth gives the best performance, or at least he strikes with the
most presence because he's playing one truly sick and demented
individual. He was most certainly worthy of the Academy Award
nomination that he garnered in 1996 following the film's release. The
other performances are very good as well. Liam Neeson is one of the
best actors of his time and all time. He's never shelled out a bed
performance yet and my way of thinking leads to a conclusion that he
was just as deserving of an Academy Award nomination here as was Tim
Roth. Not just here, but for many other performances too.
I think this guy is getting snubbed.
Also compelling is Jessica Lange as his wife. She's come a long way
from her uncomfortable (yet likable) performance in Dino De Laurentis's
remake of "King Kong" and now she's a first-class actress. I also
appreciate the filmmaker's gesture of not giving her a
damsel-in-distress personality to build even though she goes through
some truly tough and gritty scenes. John Hurt is the one other really
notable performer in the cast as a conniving land-grabber.
However, what I really missed in the movie was better connection
between the characters. Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange have some
romantic dialogue and scenes, but not enough real chemistry for the
audience to feel the full potential passion of their relationship.
Similarly, their companions seem like cut-outs in the typical
look-uppers of the medieval genre. Also counting against it, I feel, is
a bloated running time with too much pomposity in dialogue over land
rights and relationships.
But the flaws of "Rob Roy" are forgiven just when they seem to mount
upon it when the final duel comes in. It has been described by many as
one of the best sword fights in motion picture history and I stand up
for that statement. It is not only exciting and intense (the lack of a
musical score really helps) but it is absolutely plausible. This is not
"Star Wars" where the duelists can swing their blades for five minutes
and not only avoid being hurt, but manage to keep their breath. Here we
see them tire out, get injured and slow down, react to their injuries,
try to second-guess each other. This fight does not look choreographed.
In the end, "Rob Roy" is a very pleasant little period piece. However,
I can't go on raving about it for there simply isn't enough of its
unique qualities to make it stand out. It's worth watching for its
authentic approach, strong performances, and visceral climax. But it
could have been so much more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Whether or not the story is true, Rob Roy is an honest film, containing
honest performances from all the principals (though special mention
must of course go to Liam Neeson for a Rob Roy of rock-hard integrity
and Tim Roth for a reptilian Cunningham).
The film looks wonderful and is always gripping: underdog vs superior
forces always works in securing the audience's involvement.
The division between plot and action works well – the story is complex,
but delivered in such a way that it is easy to assimilate.
And, as someone who enjoys movie swordfights – starting with
Flynn/Rathbone – the climactic fight between Rob Roy and Cunningham is,
I think, the most visceral swordfight ever committed to celluloid. As
someone else commented, you really believe that these two men are
intent on killing each other. More, you believe that Cunningham has it
in mind to play with Rob Roy beforehand – to torment him to the limit
of endurance before putting him to death, and this gives the conclusion
of the duel a grim satisfaction.
And then compare it to Gibson's meretricious tosh…|||
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spectacular movie of the common man of the Scottish hills compared to
the upper crust Lords of the day. Great comparisons of the lives of the
two classes. Summed up by watching Liam Neeson awake on a padded bed
and Tim Roth awake on a sprawling king size feathered bed with all the
I give Braveheart the edge in its epic feel and intensity that stayed
with me for a day or two. But Rob Roy is no slouch and is a more mature
and possibly a more realistic movie.
Liam Neeson is a superb actor and is excellent in his clan leading
role. But Tim Roth gives a world class performance as the sleazy,
vulgar, feminine wimp with an evilness that comes through in a
mannerism that has to be seen and a god gifted ability in swordplay
that puts one on the edge of their seat.
Don't get me wrong. Liam is a superb actor and possibly better overall
but this is Roth's Tour De Force.
A simple story of good versus evil,done in a way that one does not see
it as such, but is molded into the story. And one does not see the two
forces colliding until half way through the movie.
I will leave all but the final scene out of this movie. But you've been
warned to stop reading here if you have not seen this move.
The final scene is of Liam and Roth meeting to duel for Liams honor
which Roth horribly trampled on. One feels the end for Liam's character
as he enters the sword fight. One of the great things about the ending
is as the fight begins one suddenly realizes that Liams sword is to
heavy for the contest as Roth has a lighter model and swings it with
ease. Near the end of the fight Liam tired and injured walks toward
Roth dragging his broadsword. Its at this point that Liam grasps the
sword with both hands and the camera aims to Roth who in his manner you
see he says to himself, yes your sword is to heavy.
The battle ends with Liam on his knees basically at Roths will and with
Roths blade under his chin Liam reaches up and grabs the sword with his
left hand. You see Roth startled and unprepared for such a move try and
pull the sword back. Liam with a shaking hand grasps for his sword and
with a battle cry stands up and slices Roth practically in half across
the thorax. Both stunned and dying with blood flowing from his mouth
Roth gives one of the best death throes ever recorded and falls dead.
This movie is definitely worth the watch.
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