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1 item from 2005

The Proposition

12 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- "The Proposition" is a fascinating, mythological western set in the hot, dusty, fly-infested desolation of the Australian Outback of the 1880s. The violence of the landscape reflects the violence of the savage men, who roam this frontier devoid of civilization and of God. The film is the creation of music icon Nick Cape, who wrote the script and composed much of the music, and director John Hillcoat, a top music video director who made his feature debut with "Ghosts...of the Civil Dead" in 1988. The film deals with morally compromised characters, who fight against but finally yield to destinies over which they have no control.

The film's bloodiness, both suggested and depicted, could limit its appeal. But a western, especially an Australian one, may just seem new again to audiences. That and an outstanding cast, which includes Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson and William Hurt could lead to international boxoffice strength.

The story takes place in the aftermath of an outrageous act of violence. The perpetrators are a gang of ruthless bushrangers lead by three Irish brothers named Burns, who see all English and all law officers as their enemy. But the slaughter has so horrified Charlie Burns (Pearce) that he quits the gang in order to protect his mentally fragile and innocent brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) from their psychotic older brother Arthur (Huston).

In a furious gunfight, Capt. Stanley (Winstone), an English policeman brought to the Outback to "civilize this land," captures the two brothers. Knowing he will never be able to track down Arthur in his hiding place in the badlands, the captain makes an despicable proposition to Charlie: To save Mikey from the gallows, he must track down and kill Arthur.

As Charlie heads into the unforgiving desert, the story splits in two to witness what happens to both men. In town, locals are enraged to learn that Stanley released a killer he had in custody. His superior, Fletcher (David Wenham), not only pressures Stanley to do something about the renegade Aborigines, but incites a mob into flogging Mikey nearly to death, which dooms the proposition.

Meanwhile, Stanley struggles to shield his innocent wife Martha Watson) from the harsh realities of this brutal land. Mostly, he wants to keep from her the truth about what happened to her friend during the Burns gang's slaughter.

In the desert, Charlie is attacked and wounded by Aborigines but saved by Arthur, who takes Charlie to his hideout. A bounty hunter (Hurt) nearly captures the entire gang before Arthur again saves his brother. When Charlie finally tells Arthur that Mikey will be hung, the gang rides back to town for a showdown.

Cave's story unfolds with the unmistakable rhythms of a tragedy foretold: Characters advance toward destinies they cannot avoid. Given these people and these circumstances, things are inevitable.

The actors make the most of these juicy roles. Pearce plays things close to his chest, unwilling to show his hand until the last moment, yet grim certitude is writ large on his face. Huston is a larger-than-life figure, a villain of Shakespearian proportions, who glories in blood and needs his enemies as much as his friends. He is a man unhinged long ago by the desert and English oppression.

Winstone unravels shockingly when he comes to realize the untenable nature of this predicament of his own choosing. Long accustomed to separating his humanity, represented by his wife and home, from the authoritarian nature of his job of knocking heads and working with sadists, he falls apart when that division falls apart.

Watson brightens a fairly minor role as a woman who discovers her backbone in this cruel frontier.

Benoit Delhomme's cinematography makes one feel the heat and oppression of the environment. The music by Cave and Warren Ellis has a haunting edge that isn't quite western or blues or period music but a beautiful, original work that supports the action yet stands completely on its own.


U.K. Film Council presents a Surefire production of an Autonomous and Jackie O Prods. production


Director: John Hillcoat

Writer: Nick Cave

Producers: Chiara Menage, Cat Villiers

Executive producers: Sara Giles, Michael Hamlyn, Chris Auty, Norman Humphrey, James Atherton, Michael Henry, Robert Jones

Director of photography: Benoit Delhomme

Production designer: Chris Kennedy

Costumes: Margot Wilson

Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

Editor: Jon Gregory


Charlie: Guy Pearce

Captain Stanley: Ray Winstone

Arthur: Danny Huston

Jellon Lamb: John Hurt

Fletcher: David Wenham

Martha: Emily Watson

Stoat: Tom Budge

Mikey: Richard Wilson

Running time -- 104 minutes

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