Billed as an unofficial sequel to Braveheart (1995), “Robert the Bruce” has
probably more in common with the classic westerns of Hollywood’s golden age
than it does with Mel Gibson’s most famous role.
The action, rather than taking place in 1306 in the Scottish Highlands,
could so easily be set in the late 19th century Wild West and
“Robert the Bruce” could so easily be Alan Ladd’s Shane or Yul Brynner’s
Chris Adams from the “Magnificent Seven".
In “Shane” Shane takes a fatherless family under his wing and prepares them
for the trouble that he knows is coming their way, much like Yul Brynner’s
character does with the villagers in the Magnificent Seven and so it is
with Robert (Angus Macfadyen), who, finding himself injured, ends up in the
care of a young widow called Morag (Anna Hutchison) and her children.
Knowing that his pursuers will eventually track him down he must train the
family to not only defend him but also themselves from the onslaught that
Luckily for Robert the family are very much on his side but not everyone in
the village is so sympathetic to Roberts cause. The loss of life in
Roberts’s campaigns has left a scar on many, none more so than the
village’s sheriff (Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Zack McGowan) who, upon hearing
that Robert has been seen injured in the area, makes it his task to track
him down and claim the reward.
Macfadyen, reprising his role from Braveheart, doesn’t have much to do in
the first half, he spends most of the time recovering from his injuries, but in the second
he gives a charismatic and touching performance that just about makes you
believe that men could fight and die by his side. Of the other cast members
Talitha Bateman and Gabriel Bateman (real life brother and sister) shine as
Morag’s children whilst Jarred Harris adds some gravitas to the whole
proceedings as Roberts rival for the crown, John Comyn.
It’s easy to knock “Robert the Bruce” as a piece of flag waving
nationalism, Bruce’s encounter with the spider in the cave gets a very
fleeting mention, but taken just as a piece of entertainment, and you need
to remember that it was made on a fraction of the budget that Mel Gibson
had at his disposal, so there’s no big battle scenes here, director Richard
Gray has managed to make a thoroughly enjoyable movie that feels like an old fashioned western.