Monday, September 25, 2006


Guy Pearce The Proposition Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring Guy Pearce
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Historically, and from a character perspective, there’s still mining to be done in western films, and THE PROPOSITION gives us a great sense of both. Aussie director John Hillcoat delves into Australia in the 1880s, telling about the bloody lawlessness and aboriginal prejudices.

The story centers around the outlaw Burns brothers, Charlie (Guy Pearce, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), Mike (Richard Wilson, DECK DOGZ) and Arthur (Danny Huston, THE CONSTANT GARDNER). When Charlie and Mike are caught by local lawman Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone, COLD MOUNTAIN), Charlie is pulled aside and given a distasteful proposition: kill your brother Arthur and Mike will live. Charlie loves Mike dearly and hardly knows his other brother, Arthur. He grudgingly accepts the terms but it quickly becomes clear that he’s unsure what to do. Is the killing of one family member in order to save another morally apprehensible? What if your moral boundaries are skewed?

Charlie rides off to find his brother in the searing Australian Outback.

Meanwhile, back in town, Captain Stanley is having great difficulty controlling its citizens once they learn one of the dreaded Burns brothers is in the local jail. A powerful bureaucrat named Eden Fletcher (David Wenham, THE LORD OF THE RINGS) demands swift justice. He orders that Mike Burns be lashed 100 times. Knowing that Mike probably won’t survive this, but also battling feelings his lovely wife Martha (Emily Watson, GOSFORD PARK) has about the crimes Mike has committed, Captain Stanley is forced to give in to the township’s demands.

Back in the Outback, Charlie finally runs into his twisted brother and comes face-to-face with his worst fears: killing someone of his own flesh and blood. Can he do it? Should he do it?

The word "epic" has been on the lips of many reviewers, but epic may be too big a term for this flick. It is enjoyable, and has sweeping views and great acting (even John Hurt makes a soulful appearance as a perverse bounty hunter), but it doesn’t approach films such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or DOCTOR ZHIVAGO in scope. And that’s okay. There are many films out there that are still very enjoyable but don’t meet the epic criteria.

That the western film has been done for nearly a century might make one think that it’s dying out as a genre. But no. THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUAIDES ESTRADA and UNFORGIVEN are two of the more recent favorites that prove there’s still life out there for the western. And The Proposition is another excellent example that it’s still got cinematic value.

Click here for The Proposition movie trailer!


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