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.
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...