Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Love is a dung hill

This morning, I started filing through my own never-been-published posts - this is one of them.

What's a good reason to view a film? "I admire this director" or "I am interested in the genre" scores 10/10 in my book. Curiosity based on a poster or piece of music, 7/10. Has teh hots for an actor - 3/10.

In my case, "teh hots" is a little of an exaggeration - obviously, an actor whose work you admire should score a good 7 or 8 out of 10. But whatever.

I probably deserved about a 4.5/10 for my motivation behind Rob Roy, a period epic set in Scotland I was never going to like.

And I didn't, I honestly thought it was borderline abysmal. Perhaps that’s too cruel…frustratingly ordinary. Excactly what it had to be, no exceptions. Well, perhaps one.

When was the last time you watched a film, saw a play, read a book and got struck by the absolute artificiality of what you were seeing? And the actors are doing their best and weeping for people who never existed, and fails to move you even an inch? This is how I felt about Rob Roy, the stirring story of a good Scotsman rising up against his corrupt English rulers. You may, at this point, think of Braveheart.

Yesterday, I came up with an idea for a cool Latin motto: Decus intellegentia - “honour with logic”. Its remarkable how rarely those two occur together. This film has a lot of honour, without any brains. Rob Roy insists on judging everyone, even patently evil Englishmen, by his own lofty standards. He expects them to take his word of honour the way he would theirs. This is stupid on two counts, and I’m sure you can see why. I love the concept of honour, but too often in fiction it occurs with pig-headed idiocy. As a consequence, our Rob seemed quite a frustratingly naïve character with no people skills. His “motivation-on-demand” family are nauseating and marked-for-death. His ideals are annoying, and his story unexciting. There was just something too written about it all. Couldn’t they tell they were in a film?

It’s not like Liam Neeson was bad. He did his best – his made-to-play-Jesus serenity always makes him watchable, even if what was on the page was as dull as New Year’s Eve. Especially if you’ve ever seen Braveheart, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven e.t.c. Perhaps the crux of the problem lies in having such a delightfully vile bad guy.

Baddies are always more fun than heroes, period. It’s the challenge of any lead to make his character as interesting as his supporting cast and villain. Rob Roy suffers badly from this. Mr Neeson strides around on the highlands, solemnly intoning about honour and duty and having such a happy family life that it’s almost with a sense of schadenfreude when all goes horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Tim Roth’s hissable ponce mincing about in a wig and feathery hat, being vile and generally stealing every scene he’s in. He’s evidently having a great time, which makes the characters still taking things seriously look pompous and silly by comparison.

It’s not like I can be trusted here. I think he’s adorable in everything, so my account is biased out of all belief. He's the sole reason I watched the film, and was rewarded for it. But I truly believe it would have been…almost a better film without him. He was ace, but I feel he and John Hurt were shooting a different movie at times. A better movie, a borderline comedy which had invaded an otherwise dull-beyond-belief period drama. The rest seemed a bit empty by comparison. This is just me, I spose – there’s a lot of love for it on IMDB. His role was just superior entertainment to anything else- a genuinely nasty bad guy, who's fun to love and hate in equal measure.

As for the plot as a whole, have you ever judged a film by a single moment? The story railroads to a point where it can ditch cliche and be the newest, most original ending ever, or join the ranks of countless other movies which did the obvious?

I did this with Click. I enjoyed Click for what it was: a non-too-troubling com with Adam Sandler and the chick from Underworld doing It's a Wonderful Life. It chugged along in its fairly amusing, albeit ordinary way. Near the end I suddenly thought “so what’s going to happen now?” Films should be judged as a whole, not a sum of their parts, and at that moment I staked my whole enjoyment of the film on its ending – is Christopher Walken going to let him go, having learnt his lesson; or are we going to have an insanely pitch black finale? Please, Hitchcock, I was thinking. Please let’s not have the clichéd obvious ending. Make this something really special.

This same hope was on my mind at the end of Rob Roy. And I honestly do believe my perspective on the entire film would have changed if the end had been a bit different. Perhap's I'm just biased: no prizes for guessing who I was cheering for at the end.

PS - just watched Dog Soldiers. On new telly. With new surround sound. With werewolves trying to get in behind my ears. Pretty thrilling. Jolly good film


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