'The Proposition' *** 031006
Movie Review (2005)

The Work = ***
Guy Pearce has often picked quirky leading roles. I think the first time I noticed him was when many people did, in the excellent film 'L.A. Confidential', (even though he had been working since the late 80s.) Pearce never went on to become the superstar that fellow L.A. Confidential actor Russell Crowe did but he has continually popped up, giving solid performances in films like ' Ravenous', 'The Hard Word', 'The Count of Monte Cristo' and the enjoyable flic, 'Memento'. Here, in the grim western 'The Proposition' he plays the scruffy outlaw Charlie Burns. I am going to give a minor spoiler warning here, I will talk about minor plot developments. If you don’t want to know anymore, I am giving this one a moderate recommendation. It is a violent and slow western that will not be for everyone. Minor spoilers ahead.

The film takes place in Australia of the 1880s. 'The Proposition' will play to audiences in the States like an elongated episode of HBO’s 'Deadwood' but in the outback. Make no mistake; this is no 'Quigley Down Under'. (Actually, I’m just guessing at that, I have yet to actually see all of 'Quigley Down Under', so I could be wrong, the two films could be identical.) At any rate this film follows Charlie, who is one of several criminals that make up the feared and homicidal “Burns Gang.” Charlie is made an offer (hence the title of the film;) he can hunt down and kill the leader of the “Burns Gang,” his brother Arthur (Danny Huston) and in exchange Charlie will be given pardon for his crimes and he and his younger brother Mike (Richard Wilson) will be set free.

The Australian landscape of 'The Proposition' is a pretty one but the societies scraping themselves together are not so pretty. Foreigners, largely from parts of Europe inhabit towns that are barely functioning. A Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) is the man responsible for making Charlie his mercenary offer. Stanley is in charge of “civilizing” the local aboriginal peoples. It is no surprise that his kind seems to be as successful as his American counterparts were with the Native Americans in the States. He is a man struggling to maintain control over his own men and his own family in a country that seems like it could burst into chaos at any moment. What Charlie does and how Stanley honors his offer I will not reveal but I will say that 'The Proposition' has many musings on redemption, honor, family.

The film is written by musician Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat. I enjoyed the film, if that is possible but only so much. This is a dark, violent, bloody, film that watches as its characters slog on to their end. Danny Huston (son of the great director John Huston) gives an excellent performance as the deranged Arthur. He leads the gang, loves his brothers and is probably not too far from being a serial killer. (Depending on what one reads from the back story of 'The Proposition' he may very well be one.) Winstone and Pearce also give good performances and the rest of the cast (including Emily Watson and John Hurt) do a good job acting in often vile conditions.

Because 'The Proposition' is slow and so grim it is hard to give it a super enthusiastic review. That being said, this is certainly not a bad film. The cast works well and Hillcoat along with cinematographer Benoit Delhomme show a beautiful landscape filled with often repulsive people. The film has much to like if you can tolerate the bloody violence and grim nature. For those that dig westerns and are fans of the cast this one is recommended.


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