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First Look Pictures

Official Site

Director: John Hillcoat

Producers: Chiara Menage, Cat Villiers, Chris Brown, Jackie O’Sullivan

Written by: Nick Cave

Cast: Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, Emily Watson, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham


Ack! Why is this film getting so much love? Granted, we haven’t seen a Western in a while, so the fans could be starved, but this is hardly sustenance. Then again, it takes such pains to be a non-Western, a revisionist Western, that it couldn’t miss with those who are decidedly not hoi polloi. (By the way, y’all—Why do you hate America? Why do you hate freedom?) I expected to be all over The Proposition like white on rice, having as it does those “themes of loyalty and betrayal” that I so enjoy in many fine Hong Kong action movies. I was sorely disappointed.

Here’s the set-up. In filthy, crude, fly-specked 1880s Australia, peace officer Capt. Stanley (Winstone) has captured Charlie (Pearce) and Mikey (Richard Wilson) Burns, two-thirds of a vicious band of brothers who were lately murderers and rapists at a neighboring farm. The captain offers Charlie a deal: Hunt down and kill your truly reprehensible older brother Arthur (Huston), or I will kill your simple-minded younger brother Mikey. He then puts Charlie on a horse and turns him loose in country that could easily have stood in for The Lord Of The Rings’ Mordor. Beating, shooting, whipping, and other manners of violence and abuse follow, and I do not argue that frontier times were not nasty and brutish.

Gore-fan that I am (and the gore is worthy of being called Peckinpah-esque), I still require principal characters with motivations that one can understand—not condone, not share, simply understand. Why does Capt. Stanley make this proposition to Charlie? Why does Charlie accept? Why do the Burns boys live the lives they do? What is the most ’scrutiatingly idle Martha Stanley (Watson) doing in the bush, and why did Capt. Stanley bring his tea-sipping, rose-pruning, alabaster-skinned lady so far from Mayfair? Can’t be for his conjugal rights; a couple of scenes suggest that while Martha is willing, the Captain does not return her salutes. Well. There is the definite possibility that these desolate, trackless wastes, so far from the green shores of home, have made men mad. Certainly the Burnses, Capt. Stanley, and even prissy British government agent, Mr. Fletcher (Wenham), have loosed their holds on reason. Surprisingly, Martha, whose tenacious clinging to Victorian modes and manners seems ludicrous in her harsh environs, is the only character who seems rational.

Performances here have been much heralded; really, it is a mystery why people think good acting is going on when really it is just having the cameras trained on an actor for longer than expected. The Proposition does have nice-looking going for it. Mebbe I should bump it up to three stars so that folks should view it on the big screen… nah.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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