Film / Rob Roy

"I shall think on you as dead until my husband makes you so. Then I shall think on you no more."
Rob Roy's wife Mary, to the man who raped her

Rob Roy is a 1995 film (Very Loosely Based on a True Story, being vaguely inspired by real events; has almost nothing to do with the 1817 novel by Sir Walter Scott) starring Liam Neeson, Tim Roth, Jessica Lange, Brian Cox, and John Hurt. It tells the heavily fictionalized story of Scottish folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor, and his part in the Jacobite Rising. While it was overshadowed by that other 1995 movie about Scottish rebellion against the English, the climactic Sword Fight is held up as one of the best in film.

Robert Roy MacGregor is a chieftain in the Scottish Highlands. He borrows 1,000 from the Marquess of Montrose, but it's stolen by Montrose's protege, a deadly fop named Archibald Cunningham (played by Tim Roth, who earned an Oscar nomination).

Montrose agrees to forgive the debt if MacGregor frames his enemy, the Duke of Argyll. He refuses, has his farm burnt and his wife raped, and is forced to go into hiding. He must find a way to clear his name in court, or failing that, war against those who come after him.

These works contain the following tropes:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Montrose and Cunningham are sneeringly evil villains. The Duke of Argyll is the one exception, as a reasonably honorable guy.
  • Badass: Rob and Cunningham. Also the final duel's referee who makes it clear with his body language and tone of voice that the two aforementioned baddasses will abide by his rules and orders during the duel.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Rob delivers one in the final duel, seriously slicing open his hand, but winning the fight nonetheless.
  • Bastard Bastard: Archibald is the bastard of a wealthy noblewoman, implied to be Montrose. He's accustomed to living in court, but has no money or inheritance to support himself.
  • The Brute: Guthrie.
  • Character Title
  • Child by Rape: Quite possibly the case with Mary's baby, although she can't say for sure whether Rob or her rapist is the father.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Played with. Argyll affects elements of Highland dress (the eagle-feather bonnet and tartan sash), as well as retaining a distinctive Scottish burr, to let the audience know that he would be more in sympathy with the Scottish people. Whereas Montrose wears full-on English fashions and sports an English accent to demonstrate the opposite.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rob repeatedly uses tricky and surprising moves to win fights, which juxtaposes his otherwise honorable behavior.
  • Defiled Forever: Averted. Rob is plenty angry about Mary getting raped, but it's all directed at the rapist; toward Mary he is, if anything, more loving than before.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: One of Rob's special moves, used twice: once to prevent a fight, and once to win a fight. In the first example, he slices his own hand on Guthrie's blade to declare him the "winner" of their duel. In the final duel, Rob grabs onto Archibald's blade before dealing a death blow.
  • The Dragon: Archibald to Montrose.
  • Driven to Suicide: Betty Sturrock.
  • Duel to the Death: The final duel, with seconds and a referee.
  • Evil Brit: Archie Cunningham. Montrose might technically be Scottish, but he presents himself and thinks of himself as being English.
  • Fatal Flaw: Pride, for both Roy and Cunningham; Mary points out that his "honorable" refusal to support Montrose against Argyll (a man he doesn't know and to whom he owes nothing) is a case of pride in his own personal honor over the wellbeing of his family and clan. Cunningham's pride in his superb swordsmanship is his undoing when he passes up many opportunities to kill Rob cleanly.
  • Fragile Speedster: Cunningham is easily knocked around when his enemies get a hold of him, but is incredibly quick and skilled with a rapier.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Mary apologizes to Rob after telling him she may be pregnant by her rapist, not him, saying she couldn't bring herself to abort. He tells her it's the rapist who needs killing.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Argyll.
  • Hide And No Seek: Rob does this.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Rob Roy was both a murderer and a cattle thief. The movie Rob Roy turns him into a heroic man of impeccable honor, though strangely it still does make passing mention to cattle-thieving. It's also been suggested that the robbery of the loan that kicks off the plot (the character of Cunningham did not actually exist) was carried out by Rob himself- though, more likely, it was carried out by the treachery of one of his own men. He is known to have been guilty of armed robbery, assault, arson, village raids and other misdeeds, in one case taking over a small church and forcing the congregation to strip before stealing their Bibles for no reason other than It Amused Me. Less Lovable Rogue, more plain rogue. However, he was regarded as a generally trustworthy and honourable man when it came to his word, at least.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The Marquess of Montrose (Duke at the time the film is set). Archibald Cunningham did not exist, so obviously the real Montrose was not complicit in any of his crimes since they never actually happened. He never did find out who robbed him and he certainly didn't cover it up and frame an innocent man (insofar as the historic Roy was "innocent").
    • Unlike Cunningham, the character of Grahame of Killearn did exist, and did indeed once find Mary and hold her captive- the rape committed by Cunningham is attributed to a legend that Grahame himself was the culprit, and in the film he is at least an accomplice to the deed. However, this rape probably did not occur (and if it did, she definitely never got pregnant by it); Grahame ended up being held captive by Roy at one point later, who treated him courteously- unlikely to happen if he really thought this guy raped his wife.
  • Honor Before Reason: MacGregor. Lampshaded by his wife Mary, who doesn't want to tell him about her rape because she knows he'll go ballistic and do something stupid trying to avenge her, which is entirely the response Archie wanted in the first place.
  • In Name Only: Title aside, this film has virtually nothing in common with Scott's novel, and only slightly more than nothing with actual history.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: In spite of being the Dragon to Montrose, Archibald is the main villain. He robs both Montrose and Rob of their money, murdering one of Rob's closest friends in the process, and later rapes Rob's wife. Montrose doesn't particularly like or trust Archibald, and it's Archibald who Rob ultimately fights to the death in the end.
  • Karma Houdini: Montrose. At least his plans are foiled.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Alasdair. Rob is tempted to do this himself.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen:
    • Humorously averted between MacGregor and a drunken Guthrie in a duel to "the first cut": Rob cuts his hand on Guthrie's extended sword.
    • Played straight between the two later when Guthrie stands in MacGregor's way to Killearn. Rob wins.
    • And, of course, the climactic duel between MacGregor and Cunningham.
    —Referee: "You are here on a matter of honor. I am here to see that you settle it honorably. There will be no back-stabbing, you will not throw your blades, nor will you use weapons other than those agreed. If quarter should be asked..."
    —Rob Roy: "No quarter will be asked."
    —Cunningham: "Or given."
    —Referee: "Attend upon your weapons and commence upon my mark."
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Montrose is strongly implied to be Archie's father. Well, he's definitely one of the top three contenders, anyway.
  • Man in a Kilt: Obviously.
  • Master Swordsman: Cunningham.
  • Oh Crap!: Rob gets a gradually increasing one during the final duel, where he begins to see that, despite seeming like a fop and a coward who will only fight with an army at his back, Cunningham is a superb swordsman. The OhCrapness increases when he realises that Argyll was not exaggerating Cunningham's prowess with a sword, and that he is totally outmatched in skill.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rob starts to sound noticeably Irish at several points throughout the film.
  • The Power of Hate:
    • Name-dropped when Archie musters up the voice to agree to the duel after being badly choked.
    • Also invoked as the reason Mary will come out of the burning house to live and hate rather than proudly let herself burn with it.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Argyll.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: When he meets Rob, Cunningham fondly recalls how good it felt to rape Mary.
  • Showing Their Work: The swords used in the film are quite period-appropriate, with the English aristocrats favoring gentlemanly dueling smallswords and the Scottish men using the basket-hilted heavy claymores of the period.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Played with - the final duel is prolonged with many exchanges of attacks and parries, Roy being wounded several times. However it only takes a single blow of his to connect and kill Cunningham - which is understandable since Roy's much heavier and broader blade cuts Cunningham almost in two from his shoulder to halfway down his torso.
  • Sissy Villain: Cunningham, the fop, whose motivation for his villainy is buying expensive clothes. However, his mincing behavior is mostly a ruse. In private, he behaves much differently.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Cunningham, who sneers and smirks throughout the movie, having apparently developed his personality from a serious case of inferiority complex, being a bastard at court.
    • Montrose is also an example. Look at that smirk on his face whenever he's talking to Argyll.
  • The Sociopath: Archibald Cunningham is a thief, a philanderer, a rapist and a murderer who makes his way in life off of other peoples' money. Superficially charming enough to get most women into bed, but doesn't give a damn about them beyond sex- including if they kill themselves out of shame afterwards. He betrays and robs his own patron, then gets him to frame another man for his own crime. A smug, spoilt, unloved Psychopathic Manchild who is used to others covering for his misdeeds, he ultimately gets cut in half for his laundry list of crimes and nobody- including his own ally- mourns for him afterwards.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Montrose and Argyll can be appallingly blunt, at times. Right out of the box, we get this conversational gem:
    Montrose: Archibald is sent to me by his mother, in the hope that our climate might cool the fever in his blood.
    Argyll: So, Mr. Cunningham, what are these principal sins that distress your mother? Dice? Drink? Or are you a buggerer of boys?
    Cunningham: It is years, your Grace, since I buggered a boy—and, in my own defense, I must add I thought him a girl at the moment of entry.
    Argyll: (laughs) What say you, Guthrie? That Archie could not tell arse from quim!
    Guthrie: I've heard that many Englishmen have that same difficulty!
  • Sword Drag: Rob, at the end of the duel, when he's almost completely out of strength.
  • Sword over Head
  • The Coats Are Off: Before the final duel, Roy removes his heavy jacket and Cunningham his opulent frock coat and to show he's taking this fight much more seriously than his earlier ones he also removes his heavy wig, forgoing vanity for not being encumbered by the hot and heavy item.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Montrose gets this treatment when he is insolently too familiar with an angry Duke of Argyll. After getting ranked out in a very public place, Montrose fumingly lampshades the trope:
    Montrose: What pride, to use a fellow peer in public so! Damn his pride! (controlling himself, to his friends) My pardon. Damn His Grace's pride!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Alastair Roy. Shooting at redcoats when you're in hiding? Not smart.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Rob has only seen Cunningham act like a fop and not put himself in any sort of danger unless he has an army at his back, and as such he is taken completely by surprise when he turns out to be a Master Swordsman. The audience, however, has seen Cunningham's fight with Guthrie, so knows that Rob's in for one hell of a fight.
  • Villainous Valour: Cunningham.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Marquess of Montrose loves him his formal gardens.
  • The Worf Effect: We see Guthrie dispatching another swordsman to establish his toughness. Then he spends the rest of the film showing off how badass the main characters are.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: For one, the character of Archibald Cunningham never existed and is an invention of the movie; Montrose does exist, but he was a Duke, not Marquess, at the time this film is set, and of course is given a bit of a Historical Villain Upgrade for the movie, just as Roy is given a Historical Hero Upgrade (the real Roy was a cattle thief and a murderer; the former is only vaguely referenced). Incidentally, it has nothing to do with the 1817 novel by Walter Scott, which has a different plot entirely- being based around the Jacobite rebellion (which should have been occurring during the timeline of the movie, but are not mentioned at all)-, not to mention a different protagonist (Rob Roy is more of a Famed In-Story supporting character whom the story revolves around).