Shaken & Stirred: Rob Roy—To Be or Not to Be the Bad Guy

by Michael Cecconi

So are we supposed to root for the good guy?

Even when he isn’t the best at what he does, or the most able at getting things done, or when he doesn’t have a particular set of skills that make him the best? He’s all we’ve got. It makes me think that we choose our good guy because we see him first, and we empathize because he is learning things as we do, attempting to keep his head afloat in uncertain waters. Or because his picture is on the poster. Or because he isn’t William Fichtner—he’s always the bad guy.


Good guy, meet bad guy: Tim Roth in Rob Roy .

 But what about the other side? The dark side? I first realized while watching Rob Roy (1995) that the lumbering oaf that was Liam Neeson held no attraction to me. Poised, witty, cocksure, urbane, politically savvy, possessing physical prowess … that was my hero, that was Tim Roth, and he was the bad guy. The final sword fight is widely regarded as one of the finest set to film, and with that I agree. It is brutal, realistic, exhausting, and dramatically rich. And through it all Tim Roth is clearly the better fighter, and he is more self-possessed. Liam wins through the luckiest of moves, but I couldn’t help feeling that the better man was on the floor.

Don’t invite Heath Ledger's Joker to dinner.

Don’t invite Heath Ledger’s Joker to dinner.

Life is morally messy. Sure, we impose order on it when we can, yet it keeps wriggling out of our grasp. But for the bad guys, moral questions have been answered more resolutely. The answers that they come up with to sticky moral situations stick. They are obviously not right (they tend to trample over others’ rights) but how well they must sleep. And how effective they are. Cunningham (Tim Roth’s character) maneuvers through life like a captain plotting a course. Cobra Commander marshals a force great enough and sneaky enough to take on the Joes. Loki, not only more handsome than Thor, would clearly make a superior dinner companion. Heath Ledger’s Joker rocked Gotham to its foundation (though I don’t think dinner is in the cards with that character—file under: pencil trick). And I still want to see Clarice chatting with Hannibal, even though Hannibal’s brain snack at the end of Hannibal was the lowest point in that character’s life.

Gangs of New York 's Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis) and Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio)—who would you rather be?

Gangs of New York ‘s Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis) and Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio)—who would you rather be?

In summation I want to talk about Daniel Day-Lewis. Not his portrayal of the psychotic that was Daniel Plainview, but the more nuanced character of Bill the Butcher. Gangs of New York opens with Bill, the leader of a gang, cunningly killing Vallon (Liam Neeson, not making it out alive this time). Vallon’s son Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) looks on. Sixteen years pass and Bill is still holding it together. Balancing the needs of his neighborhood, his gang, and the politicians of the day. Snot-nosed Amsterdam manages to exact revenge by doggedly (and not without a whole lot of luck) tracking down Bill. Amsterdam is less educated, less effectual as a person in the world, and less interested in a bigger picture than his revenge. Who do you want to be?

Except for Cunningham’s propensity for rape; Cobra’s propensity to “Retreat!”; Loki’s having to pose as Anthony Hopkins forever; Joker’s dermatology bill; Hannibal’s total deal-breaking cannibalism; and Bill’s greasiness, there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the bad guy.


Bad girls do smoke: Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct .

And in the interest of fairness, let me toast Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction , Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz , Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity , Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct , Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns , Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers , and the voice actors and animators behind Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations . That dog coat would be Off. The. Hook.

Rob Roy

  • Martini/coupe glass
  • 2 oz blended scotch whisky
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Cherry for garnish

Combine ingredients in pint glass or mixing tin, fill with ice, stir 70 times, then strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with cherry.

This cocktail is a bit of a copy and paste of the Manhattan, so below please find a variation to thrill with the naughtiness of tweaking a classic:

Joaquin Murrieta

  • 1 oz Bergamot-infused Tequila
  • 1 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • ¾ oz Cynar
  • ¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Thinly-sliced lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in pint glass/mixing tin. Add ice and stir the cocktail at least 80 times. Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with thinly-sliced lime wheel.

Bergamot-Infused Tequila

  • 2 Bergamot Oranges
  • 1 liter 100% agave reposado tequila

Peel entire zest from oranges, carefully, using a peeler to separate the zest from the pith. Juice oranges, then add both the zest and the juice to tequila (using a larger-than-a-liter pitcher). Let set for 2 days then strain out solids.

MichaelCecconiMichael likes all things drink related. Michael likes movies. And, in an odd twist of fate, Michael loves words about movies. These three facts combine to make a perfect storm of sensibility, ability, and inebriation needed to fulfill duties at EatDrinkFilms. When not rhapsodizing about film, Michael tends the bar at Two Sisters Bar & Books in San Francisco. He teaches mixology in San Francisco and New York. And lately, he’s been trying to capture the magic of what he does in a bottle so he can spread his tasty libations across the land. Please feel free to contact him at with all queries.

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