Picks and Pans Review: Rob Roy

updated 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, John Hurt, Eric Stoltz, Brian Cox

While this film is about an 18th-century Scottish outlaw, the best way to enjoy it is to ignore the silly feudal feuding and trivial royal politics. Think of this as a western.

The true bad guy here is Roth as a foppish hired sword who works for Hurt, the scheming, unscrupulous lord of the fiefdom where Rob Roy (Neeson) is a populist rabble-rouser and champion. The movie is obviously building toward a showdown between Neeson and Roth; when it comes, it's a dandy, beautifully choreographed by fight director William Hobbs.

En route to that fight, Neeson and Lange, as his stalwart wife, preside over a convincing love story. Two of the most seemingly mature of major actors, Neeson and Lange make it seem plausible that he would fight fanatically for her and their two sons and that she would stay fiercely loyal to him. Stoltz, as Neeson's sidekick, seems a trifle too American.

But director Michael Caton-Jones, who was born in Scotland, shows a much surer hand than he did in his earlier films (This Boy's Life). Screenwriter Alan Sharp is Scottish-born too, as is Cox, splendidly ruthless as Hurt's treasurer, and Neeson, a Northern Irishman, at least comes from the right kingdom. Their appreciation of Robert Roy MacGregor, a real historical figure, seems passionate. (R)

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