"Matthew Quigley is really beginning to annoy me." That's Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman) speaking. He owns a huge cattle station in Australia's outback and he's hired Quigley (Tom Selleck) to come over from America's wild west and do some shooting for him. When Quigley arrives at the station, however, he finds out the shooting Marston has in mind is the killing of Aborigines. The Australian government has left the "problem" of Aborigines up to the land owners and calls it pacification by force. As Marston points out to Quigley, "As primitive as they are, they've still learned to keep themselves out of rifle range." But Quigley's having none of it, gets into a fight with Marston, and winds up abandoned with a woman he befriended, Cora (Laura San Giacomo), in the middle of the Australian desert. After many long slogs through the heat, the befriending of a group of Aborigines, encounters with Marston's hired guns and then seeing how Marston deals with the Aborigines, Quigley decides the solution to his problems is to take care of Marston once and for all. Marston, however, has decided that the solution to his problems is to take care of Quigley.
What we have is an Australian western, complete with fist fights, shootouts, galloping horses, buckboards, draggings and, of course, a dramatic shootout which the beaten-up hero doesn't lose. Quigley Down Under, however, began to annoy me when I realized that all of this in the two hour movie would have benefited greatly through editing out at least 20 minutes. Scenes go on too long. Characters say too much. Much time is spent seeing how innocent and true to nature the Aborigines are. Hours seem to be spent watching Quigley and Cora slog through one desert sequence after another.
And yet...I enjoyed the movie. Selleck, in my view, is a better light comedian than a brusque he-man. The film provides plenty of quirky, sly dialogue for both Selleck and Giacomo to work with. Alan Rickman, with those wet lips and that born-in sneer, makes a first-rate villain. He knows how to deliver a nasty line so that it drips onto your foot. The action sequences are well handled. The scenery of the Australian outback is austere. The portrayal of the Aborigines is matter-of-fact and respectful, at least until the end when they are used to create some sort of mystical experience that convinces the local British troops to leave Quigley alone. Marston's crew of crude henchmen are well portrayed. They look as grimy as men in real life were. In fact, the movie is pervaded by a feeling of heat and sweat. For most of the movie Selleck looks like you could smell him well before you could see him, and much the same goes for Giacomo. I think the griminess adds a lot of charm to the movie.
For me, Quigley Down Under is a movie with a pleasant star, an engaging villain and an interesting locale. It's worth watching every now and then. The movie could have been much better, however, with a hard-nosed editor doing some clipping.
The DVD presentation looks just fine to me.