Rob Roy (1995 film)

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This article is about the 1995 film. For the 1953 film, see Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.
Rob Roy
Rob roy poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Produced by Peter Broughan
Richard Jackson
Screenplay by Alan Sharp
Starring Liam Neeson
Jessica Lange
John Hurt
Tim Roth
Eric Stoltz
Brian Cox
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Peter Honess
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • April 7, 1995 (1995-04-07) (Limited)
  • April 14, 1995 (1995-04-14)
Running time 139 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $31,596,911

Rob Roy is a 1995 adventure film directed by Michael Caton-Jones.[1] Liam Neeson stars as Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th-century Scottish clan chief who battles with an unscrupulous nobleman in the Scottish Highlands. Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Brian Cox, and Jason Flemyng also star. Roth was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the psychopathic aristocrat Archibald Cunningham.

Plot[edit]

In Scotland, 1713, Rob Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the Chief of Clan MacGregor. By selling the Lowland gentry protection against cattle rustling, he barely manages to feed his people. Longing to alleviate their poverty, MacGregor borrows £1000 from James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose (John Hurt), with the intent of buying and selling Highland cattle. Impoverished London aristocrat Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth) has been sent to stay with Montrose, who is implied to be related to him. Cunningham's mother hopes that the cold Scottish climate will, "cool the fever in his blood." Heavily in debt, Cunningham learns about the loan from Montrose's factor, Killearn (Brian Cox), who has been charged with looking after him. Killearn first converts the credit to cash without the knowledge of Montrose or MacGregor.

Alan MacDonald (Eric Stoltz), MacGregor's most trusted retainer, arrives and suspicious of Killeran, tells him that cash was not what was agreed. The factor tells MacDonald that Montrose ordered it. On his way home, MacDonald is ambushed and murdered by Cunningham, who steals the money and sinks MacDonald's corpse in Loch Lomond. Unable to pay his loan, MacGregor approaches Montrose and asks for time to find MacDonald and the money. Montrose promises to wipe the loan off his books, but only if MacGregor will testify falsely that John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir), Montrose's main rival, is a Jacobite. Considering this dishonorable, MacGregor refuses and an enraged Montrose vows to imprison him in the Tolbooth until the debt is paid. Instead, MacGregor briefly takes Cunningham hostage and flees. Seething with hatred, Montrose orders Cunningham to bring MacGregor in.

While MacGregor is in hiding, Cunningham arrives at his croft with a company of redcoats. As the soldiers slaughter MacGregor's cattle herds and burn his croft, Cunningham brutally rapes MacGregor's wife Mary (Jessica Lange). Mary tells Cunningham that her husband will kill him. As the soldiers leave, Alasdair, MacGregor's brother, arrives and realizes that Mary has just been raped. Alasdair vows revenge but Mary swears him to secrecy. When he returns, Cunningham tells Montrose that he has delivered such an insult to MacGregor's "Highland honor" that he will soon throw caution to the wind. Unaware that his wife has been assaulted, MacGregor refuses to permit his outraged Clan to assassinate Montrose. Instead, he orders them to retaliate by rustling from Montrose's cattle herds. Meanwhile, Betty, a maidservant at Montrose's estate, has become pregnant with Cunningham's child.

When Killearn tells Montrose, Betty is dismissed from service. She approaches Cunningham, telling him that she loves him. An unmoved Cunningham responds by calling love a dunghill that he has often climbed to obtain sex. With nowhere else to go, a heartbroken Betty seeks protection from Rob and Mary MacGregor. Having overheard Killearn and Cunningham's plotting, she tells Mary who really stole the money. Mary plans to help Betty carry her child to full term, but she hangs herself in a barn at the MacGregor home. Determined to clear his name, MacGregor abducts Killearn and imprisons him on an island in Loch Lomond in order to prove Betty's story. Mary enters Killearn's cell and tells the factor that his life will be spared if he testifies against Cunningham. Instead, Killearn demands that Mary help him escape or he will tell her husband about her rape and possible pregnancy by Cunningham. Enraged, Mary draws a sgian dubh and stabs Killearn in the shoulder.

Killearn flees the cell and to the shore, where he attempts to wash out his wound but is drowned by Alasdair, who is sickened by his behavior. When MacGregor is informed, he instructs Alasdair to sink Killearn's body in the loch. In a further bid to flush MacGregor out, Cunningham begins to lay waste to all the people of Clan MacGregor. Although MacGregor refuses to take the bait, Alasdair attempts to snipe Cunningham but he himself is mortally wounded. With his dying breath, Alasdair tells MacGregor about Cunningham's violation of Mary. Shortly after MacGregor is captured by the redcoats. When they stand face to face, MacGregor accuses Cunningham of murder, robbery, and rape. Grinning sadistically, Cunningham says that he enjoyed Mary far more than the women who slept with him willingly. He also confirms that he stole the money and murdered Alan MacDonald. When MacGregor is brought before Montrose, MacGregor accuses Cunningham of stealing the money and murdering MacDonald.

However, Montrose orders MacGregor to be summarily executed by hanging from a bridge. At the last second, MacGregor overpowers his guards, loops the rope around Cunningham's throat, and jumps off the bridge. To save Cunningham, Montrose orders the rope cut. MacGregor is chased downstream by the redcoats, but evades them by hiding inside a cow's corpse. Meanwhile, Mary gains an audience with the Duke of Argyll and exposes Montrose's plans to frame him. Deeply moved by MacGregor's integrity, he grants the family asylum on his estates. Following his escape, MacGregor arrives at the croft where Mary is living with their two sons. He reproaches her for not telling him immediately of her rape. She apologizes, but says that she did so because she could not bear the thought of losing him. She further says that she can endure the trauma as long as her family is together.

MacGregor persuades Argyll to arrange a duel between him and Cunningham, who gleefully accepts. Before leaving, He instructs Mary that if he fails to return, she should name the child for him if it is a boy, and for herself if a girl. Before the duel, The Duke proposes that he will accept only the following terms: if MacGregor wins, his debts will be forgiven. If he loses, the Duke will pay his bill. Cunningham and MacGregor vow that no quarter will be asked or given. Cunningham, armed with a smallsword, sadistically takes MacGregor apart cut by cut. MacGregor, appears to swiftly exhaust himself by swinging his heavy broadsword. At last he appears to be at Cunningham's mercy. As a gloating Montrose signals Cunningham to finish him, MacGregor grabs his enemy's swordpoint with his left hand. As Cunningham frantically struggles to free his blade, MacGregor's right hand seizes his fallen broadsword and delivers a lethal blow. With his honor restored, MacGregor returns to his family and vows that he will never leave them again.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was shot entirely on location in Scotland, much of it in parts of the Highlands so remote they had to be reached by helicopter. Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, and Glen Tarbert can be seen. In the opening scenes, Rob and his men pass by Loch Leven. Loch Morar stood in for Loch Lomond, on the banks of which the real Rob Roy lived. Scenes of the Duke of Argyll's estate were shot at Castle Tioram, the Marquis of Montrose's at Drummond Castle. Shots of "The Factor's Inn" were filmed outside Megginch Castle. Crichton Castle was used in a landscape shot.

Non-stop Highland rain presented a problem for cast and crew when filming outdoor shots, as did the resulting swarms of midges.

William Hobbs choreographed the swordfights, with Robert G. Goodwin consulting. The quick small sword had replaced the heavier broadsword everywhere south of the Tweed over a century before the story's timeline, but the stylistic contrast mirrored that between the Englishman, Cunningham, and the Scot, MacGregor.

The main composer is Carter Burwell. Beside the film score, the film features a slightly different version of a traditional Gaelic song called "Ailein duinn", sung in the film by Karen Matheson, lead singer in Capercaillie.

Historical accuracy[edit]

In Rob Roy, the Scottish Highlanders and English aristocrats are portrayed in opposite manners. The Guardian wrote, "The baddies are English and queer, the goodies are Scottish and ruggedly hetero." It asserted the Scottish portrayal was American-driven and referenced a subplot where one of Rob Roy's men wants to emigrate to America. In addition, while the film spanned the years between 1712 and 1722, historical events like the rising of the clans, the battles of Sheriffmuir and Glen Shiel were left out of the film.[2]

In the film, the characters Killearn and Cunningham steal £1,000 that was given to Rob Roy by Montrose as an investment. In reality, Montrose provided Rob Roy £1,000 yearly between 1702 and 1712, and the theft was by one of Rob Roy's men or reportedly by Rob Roy himself. The historical Rob Roy also had an anti-Whig attitude, attacking a kirk in Arngask, stealing the congregation's bibles and forcing its members to strip naked; the attack was not included in the film. In addition, Cunningham (not based on a real person) rapes Mary to provoke Rob Roy, where a legend existed that Grahame (Killearn in the film) was the rapist. Regardless, historians doubt sexual violence took place; Rob Roy captured Grahame but treated him well. Mary, who became pregnant in the film as a result of the rape, was not pregnant at the time in real life. She was only pregnant four years after the supposed rape, giving birth to Robin Og.[2]

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

United Artists gave Rob Roy a limited release in the United States and Canada on the weekend of April 7, 1995, and the film grossed $2,023,272 from 133 theaters. On the weekend of April 14, 1995, Rob Roy had a wide release and earned $7,190,047 from 1,521 theaters. It ranked #2 at the box office after Bad Boys. Rob Roy '​s widest release during its theatrical run was 1,885 theaters, and the film grossed $31,596,911 in the United States and Canada.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Rob Roy received a mixed to positive critical response. It currently holds a 72% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] The film review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reported that the film received an average score of 55 based on 19 reviews.[5] Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, opined, "This is a splendid, rousing historical adventure, an example of what can happen when the best direction, acting, writing and technical credits are brought to bear on what might look like shopworn material." Ebert said the film's outline could have led to "yet another tired" historical epic, but he found that the director was able to produce "intense character studies". The critic applauded Tim Roth's performance, calling it "crucial" to the film's success. Ebert was also impressed by the climactic sword fighting scene and called it "one of the great action sequences in movie history."[6]

In contrast, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post compared Rob Roy negatively to the action films Death Wish and Rambo. Kempley disliked the film's violence and wrote, "Frankly, Rob Roy is about as bright as one of his cows. He doesn't even recognize that his obsession with honor will lead to the destruction of his clan." The critic found the protagonist unheroic in his mission for vengeance. Of his enemy, she said, "The villains, played with glee, manage to perk up the glacial pace, but they too grow tiresome."[7]

In The New York Times, Janet Maslin gave a mixed review of the film. She complained of the film's "long, dry stretches" and that the "plot [was] too ponderous and uninteresting for the film's visual sweep." Maslin said one of the film's saving graces was the "robust" presence of Liam Neeson, taller than those who played his enemies, and his character's charismatic exchange with Jessica Lange's character, writing, "Rob Roy is best watched for local color and for its hearty, hot-blooded stars." Maslin acknowledged that Neeson was "a far cry from the dour-looking Scottish drover who was the real Rob Roy" and said that the film failed to convey the figure's importance to audiences. The critic highlighted the scene of Cunningham raping Mary as one of the film's "strongest scenes" which was appropriately responded to by the "cowboy justice" of Neeson's lonesome and avenging Rob Roy.[8]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Name Outcome
BAFTA Film Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Tim Roth Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award Best Supporting Actor Won
Academy Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Nominated
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated

American Film Institute recognition:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Williams, Karl. "Rob Roy". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b von Tunzelmann, Alex (January 14, 2010). "Rob Roy: a Highland fling where they've flung out the history". The Guardian. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Rob Roy (1995)". boxofficemojo.com. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Rob Roy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Rob Roy reviews". metacritic.com. Metacritic. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 7, 1995). "Rob Roy". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  7. ^ Kempley, Rita (April 7, 1995). "'Rob Roy' (R)". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 7, 1995). "Film Review: Rob Roy; Liam Neeson: Man in Kilts". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees

External links[edit]

Category:Films_about_Scottish_History