Rob Roy (1995)





Director:      Michael Caton-Jones

Starring:      Liam Neeson (Rob Roy),  Jessica Lange (Mary),  John Hurt (Montrose),  Tim Roth (Cunningham),  Eric Stoltz (McDonald),  Andrew Keir (Argyll),  Brian Cox (Killearn),  Brian McCardie (Alasdair),  Gilbert Martin (Guthrie),  Vicki Masson (Betty),  Gilly Gilchrist (Iain), Jason Flemyng (Gregor), Ewan Stewart (Coll), David Hayman (Sibbald), Brian McArthur (Ranald).

Country:        US-Scottish.

This is a good film, but seems like an old tale.  This is like one of those old western films where the good guy is finally pushed into vengeance by the evil doings of the bad guys.  The commoner Rob Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the reluctant hero who fights against the evil nobleman (John Hurt) in Scotland.   


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

1700s, Scotland.  The Famine, disease and greed of the great noblemen was changing Scotland forever.  With many immigrating to the Americas, the centuries-old Clan system was slowly being extinguished.   This story symbolizes the attempt of the individual to withstand these processes and even in defeat retain respect and honor.  

1718.  Scottish Highlands.  A group of six men, led by Robert Roy MacGregor, are looking for some cattle rustlers.  The 32 beasts were stolen from his Lordship, James Graham, Marquis of Montrose.  The men catch up with the band of rustlers.  Rob Roy goes in alone to talk with the leader of the rustlers, Tam Sibbald.  Rob tries to reason with Tam, but Tam tries to kill Rob.  Instead, Tam is killed by Rob.  Rob then lets the rest of the rustlers go. 

This is near the period of Restoration, where Charles II would eventually replace Charles I after an intervening time. 

His Grace, the Duke of Argyll and his swordsman Guthrie talk with the Duke of Montrose and his swordsman Archibald Cunningham.  They discuss the kingly succession.  Some of the noblemen are said to be adherents of James (called Jacobites).  Archie and Guthrie, the two swordsmen, take an almost immediate dislike to each other.  A duel is arranged between the two men and the Duke of Argyll and the Marquis of Montrose each bet on their man to be the victor.  Archie has an easy time defeating Guthrie, much to the pleasure of the Marquis of Montrose. 

Rob and his band return to their village where they find a lot of the kids very sick.  The leader of the band tells his friend McDonald to kill one of the now 31 cows in order to feed the hungry in the village.  He will tell the Marquis that two of the cows died on the way back rather than the one that actually died.  Rob Roy then returns to his house by the lake to see his wife and children. 

The overseer for the Marquis, Mr. Killearn, pays a visit to Archie.  He finds out that Archie does not like living in Scotland.  The overseer tells Archie that Rob Roy is going to borrow 1,000 pounds from the Marquis in order to buy cattle to raise.  As collateral, Rob puts up his 300 acres of land.  Killearn tells Archie that they can rob the money from Rob Roy after he receives it.  Archie likes the idea. 

The Marquis agrees to the loan and Roy Roy and McDonald meet with Killearn and Archie in the local pub to sign for and pick up the money.  Killearn keeps stalling until Roy Roy has to leave.  Rob tells McDonald to stay to pick up the money.   After Rob has been gone for a long while, Killearn gives McDonald the 1,000 pounds in coins.  This very much upsets McDonald because this was not the agreement and he knows that it opens him up to robbery.  But Killearn says that is all he has and so McDonald takes the coins.  Along the road back to Rob, Archie shoots and kills McDonald.  He then throws the weighed down body into the lake.  Rob worries about McDonald's long delayed arrival.

The Duke of Argyll scolds the Marquis for spreading rumors that the Duke is a Jacobite, which he is not. 

Rob sees McDonald's horse arrive, but without McDonald.  He suspects foul play.  He and the men of the village search for McDonald, but there is no trace of McDonald or the money.  A lot of people, including his wife, tell Rob that McDonald stole the money and jumped on the ship headed to America. But Rob just cannot believe this of his honest friend. 

With no McDonald and no money, Rob has to report to the Marquis that he has no money.  The Marquis tells him that he will forget the debt owed him in exchange for Rob's testimony against Argyll.  But Rob will not perjure himself and he refuses.  The Marquis says:  "Your land is forfeit to me."  He then orders his men to take Rob into custody, but Rob eventually gets away from them. 

Archie is in charge of a group of English soldiers who will help catch Rob Roy.  Rob tells his wife to take the children to a safe house, but she refuses.  He then goes to the hills to avoid Archie and his men.  Soon after Rob leaves, Archie and his men in boats arrive at Rob's house.  The outspoken Mary, Rob's wife, starts to protest to Archie and gets hit in the stomach area for her troubles.  She goes down quickly.  Archie tells the soldiers to kill all the cattle.  Mary is up and speaking her mind again and the sadistic leader takes Mary into her home and rapes her.  The soldiers then burn the house.  Mary is able to get out of the house in time.   Alistair arrives too late to help Mary.  He realizes by her actions that Mary, desperately trying to clean herself in the lake, has been raped.  Alistair wants to tell Rob, but Mary swears him to secrecy.  Learning of the burning of his home, Rob plots to hurt the Marquis in his wallet by hurting him in rents collected and his cows.

Betty the housemaid is pregnant by Archie, but the heartless man just tells her to "root it out".  This really hurts Betty, who very much loves Archie, and so she tells Mary about Archie and Killearn's "thieving" of Rob's money. 

Gurian forces Rob to respond to the man's threats, and Rob kills Gurian very quickly.  Then Rob turns his attention to Killearn, but the thief blames everything on Archie.  Betty hangs herself and her body is discovered by the astonished Mary.  Mary fears that she has been made pregnant by Archie and fears even more having to tell her husband.

Killearn is brought to Rob.  Mary arrives and tells Killearn that he must sign a confession.  But the evil Killearn has another ploy up his sleeve.  He tells Mary that if  she does not see to it that he is freed, he will tell her husband about Archie raping her.  Mary seems defeated, until she takes out a knife.  She stabs Killearn in the neck.  Rob rushes to them and scolds Mary for stabbing him.  She says the man was never going to confess anyway.  Killearn dies. 

The Marquis complains to Archie of the rebel raids on his property.  Archie responds by becoming even crueler with the Scots people.  He starts burning villagers' houses.  Rob, Archie and the men watch one of the raids from a hill.  Alistair wants to attack the soldiers, but Rob says there is nothing they can do and tells the men to retreat.  But the head strong Archie will not go.  He shoots his rifle killing one of the soldiers.  But this tips off Archie to the nearness of his enemy and he and his men immediately start chasing the Scotsmen.  Alistair is hit by musket fire and and one of the other Scotsmen is shot and killed. 

Rob helps get Archie to a temporary safe place.  Archie tells Rob about the rape of Mary.  An English soldier on horseback shoots Archie.  Archie dies.  Rob shoots the man and knocks him off his horse.  Rob tries to make his get-away on the horse, but a rifleman shoots the horse and the horse falls on Rob's leg pinning him down.  Rob is captured.  As a prisoner, Rob is treated very harshly. 

Mary goes to the Duke of Argyll for help.  He is not interested in getting involved with an affair of the Marquis's.  He changes his tune, however, when Mary reveals that the Marquis tried to get Rob to bear false-witness against the Duke. 

Archie delivers Rob to the Marquis.  As the hanging looms, Rob is able to get away by throwing his rope around the neck of Archie and then jumping off the bridge while still holding on to the rope.  Rob escapes and Archie gets a very nasty rope burn around his neck.  Archie and his men chase Rob down the river, but he is able to hide inside the hollowed-out insides of a dead cow.  The soldiers avoid the animal because of the terrible smell.  Archie burns more houses. 

Back home Rob tells Mary that she should have told him about the rape.  Now Rob wants to fight a duel with the expert swordsman Archie.  The Duke of Argyll arranges the match and the Duke and the Marquis bet on the outcome.  If Rob wins (which both noblemen think is unlikely), the Marquis will cancel Rob's debt.  Rob is out fenced, but has a trick up his sleeve.  As Archie slowly approaches Rob for the kill, Rob grabs Archie's blade with one hand and slashes him across his left shoulder with his sword.  Archie falls dead.  Rob has his debt cancelled. 


It is not only the Irish that the English treated horribly.  They also treated the Scots cruelly.  This kind of Robin Hood film shows that fact clearly in dealing with just one struggle between the local Scots and their English overlords.  This is an old revenge type movie, which we have seen hundreds of times.  But it is still a good movie and makes one's mouth water for the catharsis to come when Rob is sure to get vengeance on Archie.  Liam Neeson was great as Rob Roy MacGregor.   Mary's character was too one-sided.  She is portrayed as so stubborn and hot-headed that she exposes herself and her children to death.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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