20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Suitably biblical take on the Western...,
This review is from: The Proposition [DVD] (DVD)
*May contain spoilers. Or may not *
'The Proposition' reunites writer Nick Cave with director John Hillcoat - the pair previously collaborating on 1988's grim prison movie 'Ghosts...of the Civil Dead' (Cave & the Bad Seeds also provided the soundtrack to the so-so 'To Have & To Hold'). Fans of Cave's records will note he has often nodded towards this kind of territory in songs such as 'Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow'), 'Jack the Ripper' & 'A Box for Black Paul', as well as his classic spin on Southern Gothic found in his sole novel to date, the brilliant 'And the Ass saw the Angel.' 'The Proposition' nods to the Old Testament side of Cave's work, one that he has veered away from since 1997 in his music, and it certainly has the feel of writers like William Faulkner & Flannery O'Connor.
The setting of the film gives an interesting spin on the Western, a genre that often surfaces in a manner that is spun in a direction - the indie film ('Dead Man'), the sub-Searchers wannabe ('The Missing'), the Costner vehicle ('Open Range') & a total failure such as the dire 'Dust.' Cave and Hillcoat bring their respective identities to this genre, nodding to the colonial past of Australia, apparent from the opening period photographs and the Aboriginal slaves. Cave's work recently has nodded to history and war (single 'Nature Boy' alluded to Vietnam, as did his unproduced screenplay for 'Gladiator 2'), and here his screenplay nods to a difficult period in Australian history, that many people will know through stuff like Ned Kelly.
The film opens with a violent shootout, which concludes with Charlie (Guy Pearce) & Mikey Burns being captured by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) who offers the former the proposition of the title: Mikey will hang on Christmas Day if Charlie doesn't track down and kill his brother Arthur (Danny Huston) who is holed up in a place where even the Aboriginal slaves won't go and who has committed a murder/rape in Stanley's area recently. Charlie has no choice, so sets off on his journey which recalls the visionary landscape found in Cave's novel - it should be noted that the cinematography is excellent and the whole cast and crew went out on a limb shooting in such a locale! (I'm guessing Cave stayed at home?)
The film sets up the birth of modern Australia under colonial rule, Stanley caught between doing the right thing and getting results for his boss (an unpleasant soul he shares some of the qualaties of Empire representatives found in films like A Passage to India and Lagaan). Stanley attempts to shield his wife from the horrors of the world they live in, though in a key scene Stanley's wife (played by the wonderful Emily Watson) plays a role in a brutal scene that recalls the scourging of Christ. Stanley knows what this means, leading to the punishing conclusion in which Charlie finds another path...
'The Proposition' is a bleak take on the Western, hard hitting stuff and the best example of the genre in years. All of its violence is justified, some of it reminded me of Cronenberg's 'A History of Violence' - I liked the way Arthur & Stanley's altercation took place off screen like Shakespeare (the wrapping of Stanley's head in a Union Jack was interesting also!). A great film and well worth watching, this DVD adds a bonus disc of extras that are of interest; the supporting cast is all fantastic (great to see Noah Taylor in there, he's always been a favourite of mine) and the music by Cave and fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis is brilliant. There simply isn't a film like this - imagine Sam Peckinpah with less camera trickery and a proper script!