Review by Sean Boelman
A Scottish historical epic about as bland as they come, Richard Grey’s Robert the Bruce rides the back of its much more entertaining cousin in the hopes that it can replicate the same success. However, the film serves precious little purpose other than to be a reminder of the far superior Braveheart.
The movie tells the story of the eponymous once King of Scotland as he starts a bid for his homeland’s freedom, leading to him being targeted by the King of England. Hoping to fill in the gaps left by Gibson’s film, this is a paint-by-numbers action flick that is reliant on manipulating tropes in an attempt to get emotion out of the viewer.
It wouldn’t exactly be fair to call the movie outright boring since there is so much stuff happening that it never slows down, but it’s easy to lose interest because everything feels so dull and tedious. Watching action scene after action scene does begin to get tiring at a certain point, especially if one has seen other, more nuanced films in the genre.
Perhaps the movie’s cardinal sin, though, is that the action feels very uninspired. The film very easily could have been saved with some immersive fight choreography, but instead, these scenes are entirely conventional. Grey attempts to compensate for this with shock value and blood, and it doesn’t work.
The movie’s character development is also weak. The film takes the very formulaic route of showing the hero as he is rehabilitating from a defeat, being nurtured back to health by a side character who teaches him something that was what he needed to succeed all along. As a result, the characters are all archetypal, and the viewer won’t care about their arcs.
Angus Macfayden reprises his role from Braveheart as the King of the Scots, and he’s obviously very comfortable playing the character. (Macfayden also co-wrote the movie with Eric Belgau, which shows he was just itching to return to his most iconic character.) In the supporting cast, the only memorable turn comes from Jared Harris who is solid, albeit underused.
On a technical level, Grey’s film is just as safe as anything else about the execution. The editing is aggressive for no good reason, the cinematography is annoyingly grey, and the visual style as a whole is just uninspired. The costumes are fine, but that isn’t saying much for a period piece where that is the bare minimum.
Robert the Bruce will definitely be a disappointment for anyone who is a fan of Braveheart and is hoping for a sequel to live up to the Best Picture winner’s glory. More than anything, it plays like a desperate plea for attention by its talented star who is in need of more challenging work.
Robert the Bruce hits VOD on April 24.