Amongst the DVDs I kept out of my late mother's vast collection was Rob Roy, the Liam Neeson movie from 1995 (I'm getting old). Being vaguely aware that some critics thought it quite good, and a friend actually mentioning last year that he liked it, I gave it a go last night.
It is, in my opinion, a terrible movie.
Right from the start, it makes it clear that it is of the "earthy historical film" genre: the type where dirtiness and bodily functions feature prominently (and men go around bluntly talking about their sexual predilections in all sorts of odd ways that apparently men used to do 3 centuries ago). But it feels overdone and fake in this movie - as indeed is the acting.
Apart from Neeson, whose character is meant to be noble and honourable and is therefore somewhat restrained, most of the rest of the cast seem at various points to be chewing up the scenery as if they are from the Bette Davis School of Exaggerated Acting. Tim Roth got awards for his role? Must have been a slow year. And as for Neeson himself - because the script has him delivering many lines in which he is telling others how they should be fine and noble and do what's right, they tend to be delivered in a style that immediately put me in mind of his Aslan voicework in the Narnia movies. Not his fault, that, but overall I still thought his acting was a bit stilted and unconvincing.
I just found it an unpleasant story too, with the stabbings and deaths done in over the top fashion, with the immediate gush of blood in the mouth, blades erupting from chests, and things like that.
In terms of historical accuracy - it seems to score no higher than Braveheart on the "conning modern audiences that they are seeing something more or less accurate" scale. (The main problem being that the main villain is completely invented.) I also see that one of the key plot points in the movie - the rape of his wife - is based on a story circulating at the time the accuracy of which there is very good reason to doubt.
Even the climax, which quite a few critics seem to describe as one of the best swordfights ever shown on screen - I was completely underwhelmed. Is it just that I had also decided I didn't the film after about the first half hour, and was resenting that I was hanging in there to see if it got any better? I don't think so - I just can't see why the fight was meant to be impressive.
I see that Ebert thought it was a terrific movie, which confirms my earlier opinion of him that his reaction to movies was nothing I could consistently rely on.
So count that as a big disappointment. And Neeson was better as a lion.