Combustible Celluloid
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With: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Andrew Keir, Brian Cox
Written by: Alan Sharp
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
MPAA Rating: R for violence and sexuality
Running Time: 139
Date: 04/07/1995

Rob Roy (1995)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Swords and Mud

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Rob Roy is a movie that asks, and answers, when do our characters go to the bathroom?

Rob Roy benefits from a smart script and fine performances by art house regulars Tim Roth and Eric Stoltz, as well as Hollywood stars Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange. The movie takes place in early 18th Century Scotland, where "honor" is a rare commodity. (Sounds a little like Twentieth Century America.) Of course Rob (Neeson) has honor in spades, and because of it, he is run through the mill. He strikes up a bargain with one of the country's moneymen (John Hurt); he borrows 1000 guineas to drive and sell cattle, and with the profits he can pay his debts and feed his hungry clan. The money is given in cash and stolen by Cunningham (Roth), and the hunt is on for Rob.

Director Michael Caton-Jones (Doc Hollywood, This Boy's Life) delivers all the epic punches as expected, but with a few odd twists. It's hard to explain, the movie isn't squeamish at all. It isn't afraid to show people pissing and screwing and washing. Jessica Lange is photographed with a distinct lack of makeup and looks scrappy and ravishing. Tim Roth's Cunningham is one of the most villainous mother-scratchers ever filmed, but he is also seen baring his soul about his mother. Rob Roy raises interesting questions about rape and sex that people in the 17th century didn't have the answers to, and sometimes we still don't.

In addition, the climactic sword fight has to be seen to be believed. It is beautifully shot, with no too-fast edits and no drowning music. It moves slowly and steadily with the combatants growing wearier and wearier, just like what might happen in life.

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