There are a pair of superb performances at the heart of Rob Roy. Liam Neeson embodies Roy with a quiet, intense dignity. The character does not want to change the world; he simply wants to live his life. The early scenes showing the robust physical relationship between Roy and his wife, along with a warm sequence in which his clan plays music, cracks jokes, and dances by a bonfire, reveal a man that prefers domesticity to action. A great hero needs a great villain, and Tim Roth's Cunningham is the perfect foil for Roy. He is a man who loves action. He fights in duels, womanizes, and thinks nothing of murder if there is money for the taking. In his early scenes he plays Cunningham like a fop, making his violation of Roy's wife all the more frightening; the audience has no clue as to the depths of his wickedness. Roth's Oscar-nominated turn masterfully conveys Cunningham's two-faced nature throughout the film. The film's best scene is a duel between Roy and Cunningham. Truly one of the greatest sword fights in film history, the climactic struggle stands out from such films as The Princess Bride, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and other swashbuckling spectacles because it presents how physically exhausting a sword fight is. The swords in this film are weapons, not props. These men do not leap about with acrobatic flourishes; they fight as if their lives hang in the balance. Rob Roy is masterfully acted, well written, old-fashioned (in the best sense of the phrase) entertainment that was overshadowed in its initial release by another sweeping Scottish historical epic, Braveheart, a film that favors action over character.
by Perry Seibert review