Rob Roy (1995) has stood the test of two decades to rank among my favorite movies. though it was overshadowed that year by the Academy Award-winning Braveheart, I find Rob Roy the superior tale. It offers up one of cinema’s most loathsome of villains, Archibald Cunningham, played with unsettling relish by Tim Roth. It’s a pitch-perfect depiction of an 18th century rakehell — effeminate, profligate, yet a deadly swordsman. The corrupt Archie makes the perfect foil for the rough nobility of Liam Neeson’s Rob Roy.
Rob Roy MacGregor was a historical figure, a true Frontier Partisan, skilled at arms and in fieldcraft, who made his living as a cattleman: a dealer, a reiver, and the operator of a cattle-theft protection racket. He reminds me a bit of Juan Cortina.
MacGregor was also a Jacobite sympathizer, a supporter of the Catholic Stuart claim to the throne of England.
The movie tells of how he fell afoul of the Lowland aristocracy and was outlawed and hounded by the British. ’Tis a lovely movie to watch of an autumn evening, with your woman by your side, a fire in the stove and a hot mug of tea (or other libation of choice) to hand.
Rob Roy features what is for my money the finest sword fight ever committed to film, choreographed by swordsman William Hobbs. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch the clip — the fight is best experienced in the context of this glorious, gritty adventure story. If you have seen the film, enjoy…
The film features a beautiful, evocative Carter Burwell soundtrack, including a stunning version of “Ailein Duinn.”