Quigley Down Under is a terrific old-school western relocated to Australia that never found the audience it deserved. Originally intended as a Steve McQueen vehicle, Tom Selleck makes a surprisingly excellent replacement as the American sharpshooter who travels to Australia only to find new employer and Wild West buff Alan Rickman (in typical sneering mode) wants him to kill the local aborigines. Naturally, Selleck and Laura San Giacomo's crazy woman who thinks he's her lost love find themselves dumped in the desert and on the other side with the expected results, but the pleasure's all in the telling, not least thanks to an exceptionally well-crafted script by John Hill. Selleck's Quigley is a likeable, decent yet believable hero that in another era would have set the actor on the path to making the genre his own, Giacomo's character is surprisingly well drawn, the actress managing to make a potentially irritating role both funny and touching while being absolutely convincing, and Simon Wincer stages the action and character scenes with equal aplomb. Add superlative scope photography from David Eggby and one of Basil Poledouris' best and most enjoyable scores and it adds up to the most purely enjoyable old-fashioned Western in the past few decades.
The R2 PAL DVD includes the original trailer but not the negligible 2 TV spots and brief featurette from the R1 NTSC release, but it's worth picking up just for the film. MGM/UA's US region-free Blu-ray also offers the extras from the US DVd and a superior widescreen transfer.
Although set in 1870s Western Australia, this is a very traditional western adventure, and it is all the better for that! After watching that recent, truly awful film "Australia", "Quigley Down Under" is like a breath of fresh air. Tom Selleck plays Matthew Quigley a, yes you've guessed it, very traditional western character in the mould of William S Hart, Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and of course John Wayne. He is the typical taciturn self sufficient westerner. A man of few words, but not a man to rub up the wrong way. He also happens to be quite useful with a gun.
In the film Quigley travels to the Western Australian outback in response to an advertisement by wealthy rancher Alan Rickman, who wants a marksman who can shoot accurately over long distances. Soon after arriving Quigley learns that he will be employed to shoot local aborigines as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign headed by the rancher. The two have an explosive confrontation which ends with Quigley being badly beaten and dumped in the desert with a young woman who has befriended him. But Quigley is not finished yet. They really should have finished him off when they had the chance! Big mistake! We head to an old fashioned showdown, where Quigley does not believe that Rickman measures up to the likes of Wild Bill Hickock.
Tom Selleck does an excellent job in the lead role. He is a natural born westerner who could sleepwalk through the part. He looks and acts the real deal. The diminutive Laura San Giacamo provides attractive and feisty support. Alan Rickman is excellent in another of his cadaverous panto villain roles. He does not ham it up to the same extent as his overblown performance that same year as the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves". Perhaps the real star of the film though, was the custom made 13 pound, single shot, 34" barrel, Sharps Buffalo rifle used to deadly effect by Quigley. This was a legendary gun in the annals of the old west. Any gun that would stop a buffalo, would most certainly do the job on a man. A replica was specially made for the film. The only other film I can recall that featured the gun, was the now largely forgotten "Billy Two Hats" starring Gregory Peck and filmed unusually in Israel.
John Hill started writing the story in 1974 and Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood were both considered for the role. When production eventually started in 1980, McQueen was ill and the project was put on the shelf for a decade. The excellent cinematography is by David Eggby. The rousing musical score by Basil Poledouris is also worthy of note. It reminded me of those memorable earlier compositions by Elmer Bernstein, which is high praise indeed! The Brits in the film follow an unfortunate recent Hollywood tradition of being the bad guys. Well I guess we weren't perfect in our old colonial days! The treatment of Australia's aboriginal people in the 1800s is also honestly dealt with. They were hunted down like game, much in the way that the early Dutch settlers hunted down the bushmen in South Africa and the Spanish annihilated the early inhabitants of the Canary Islands.
The film was not a box office success, and only just managed to recoup its budget. It is by no means a classic, but it is enjoyable and entertaining to watch, and its heart is in the right place! It has to be worth four stars. Recommended.
"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.
Quigley Down Under is directed by Simon Wincer and written by John Hill. It stars Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo and Alan Rickman. Music is by Basil Poledouris and cinematography by David Eggby. Plot sees Selleck as Matthew Quigley, a Wyoming cowboy and sharp shooting rifleman who answers an advertisement to go to Western Australia as a hired sharp shooter. If proving his worth, he's to work for Elliot Marston (Rickman), but when Marston outlines his sick reasons for hiring Quigley, the pair quickly become on a collision course that can only see one of them survive.
It was written in the 1970s by John Hill, where it was hoped that Steve McQueen would take on the lead role, but with McQueen falling ill and Clint Eastwood allegedly passed over, the project sat on ice until 1990. In came Selleck and the film finally got made. Just about making back its money at the box office, Wincer's movie deserved far better than that. It's competition in the Western stakes in 1990 were Costner's beautiful and elegiac Dances With Wolves and the Brat Pack bravado of Young Guns II, both vastly different films from each other, and both considerably different from Quigley Down Under. If those two films contributed to the average response to the Selleck picture? I'm not completely sure, but viewing it now one tends to think that the 1990 audience just wasn't ready for such a delightfully old fashioned Oater, one that features a straight and simple narrative to tell its tale.
It's safe to say that anyone after deep psychological aspects will not get that here. There's some serious themes in the story, such as the horrid genocide towards Aborigines, while the deft kicks at the British are fair enough even to a British guy such as myself. But in the main this is old time Western fare, where it may be as predictable as a horse doing toilet where it pleases, but it's fun, brisk, gorgeous to look at, and there's never a dull moment within. Wincer (Lonesome Dove) directs with assuredness and the trio of cast leads are great value. Where Selleck cuts an impressive figure of a tough guy high on principals and with a comedy glint in his eye, Rickman is suitably attired all in black and bang on form for sneering, cocksure, villainy, while Giacomo is pretty and works neatly alongside Selleck as a spunky, lively, sidekick type who carries some sad emotional baggage along.
There appears to be quite some division amongst fans and critics as regards Poledouris' score. Whilst I agree that it does at time veer close to being too boisterous, it sits well within the type of film the makers are going for. It carries with it a sort of Magnificent Seven flavouring, imbuing the story with a rightful sense of adventure. It also flows freely with Eggby's classical capturing of the Western Australian locations. Eggby (Mad Max/The Man From Snowy River) utilises the scope format on offer to deliver some truly gorgeous back drops, while the brown and yellow hues are most appealing to the eyes. Costuming and sets are spot on for period detail, and Quigley's Sharps Rifle is an absolute beast of a weapon. The simple structure and telegraphed nature of the story stops it from being a true classic of the genre. But it has got so much going for it and is high on rewatchability, to make Quigley Down Under (not the best of titles either) essential viewing for fans of old fashioned Westerns. 8.5/10
on 6 March 2004
I thought this was a great film. Tom Selleck (good as the strong slent cowboy type) and Alan Rickman (as the sheriff of Nottingham), both top notch as well as the supporting cast. Fast paced, and a great story with some poignant moments and sweeping Australian scenery. I wasn`t expecting much to be honest, think it was a bit of a flop which just disappeared into obscurity. Well worth the money, and more. Up there with my favorite films/westerns.
on 3 October 2000
Like many movies in this country ,it did;nt get released fully ,but rather took the rental route. A shame really ,the cinematograthy is excellent ,the storyline is sound and the acting very good indeed . Watch out for the cattle cart scene with the troop of English soldiers ,early on in the movie ,the quip about," Sending our misfits back to England ",made me chuckle ! All in all a worthwhile addition to anybodies collection . The sooner it gets the DVD treatment the better in my opinion along with a few more of Tom Sellecks other Western endeavours ,that haven;t even been released here yet......!
on 23 July 2015
I had been looking for a DVD copy of this film for some time as my original video format was getting very tired, A really interesting and in some ways disturbing look at life in the colonies during British rule. Alan Rickman is excellent as the ranch owner who hates the indigenous population and thinks he is in the wild west. Selleck gives a moving portrayal of the man hired to, as he thinks, shoot predators but finds that he is being asked to shoot the aboriginals who have learnt to stay out of range of the muskets etc. being used. Ultimately the star of the film is the big Sharps long range rifle that Selleck carries and I believe he was given instruction in the handling and loading of the weapon to aid authenticity. All in all an interesting twist on the western theme.
on 19 June 2014
I don't think there's any reason for me to put down here what this film is about, how brilliant it is, how it has action, tension, comedy and romance woven into the plot or even that it has a fantastic soundtrack, especially the 'Quigley' theme.
If you are looking at this you are probably already aware of these things but you may be wondering whether to buy this or not as it is stupidly not available here in the U.K on blu-ray. You may be wondering if it will play on a R2 player. Well I took the chance and can happily tell anyone who is interested that it will play absolutely fine.
The picture is fantastic though the audio is only 2.0 stereo and I will never really understand why it has not been given a stirring 5.1 surround sound track it fully deserves.
So, if like me you live in the U.K and want this film, you can buy it knowing it will play in your player.
on 15 September 2014
A rather unusual film - especially for Tom Selleck - but recommended, never-the-less.
However, I did find the female lead part rather silly and tiresome (and a bit over-the-top to say the least) - I'm not criticising the acting as I presume it was as the part was written but I just wish it hadn't been written that way. To a certain extent it did spoil the film for me as I found the character rather cringe-worthy.
However, as per usual Tom Selleck was excellent and Alan Rachman made the perfect baddie (boo hiss!).
on 26 April 2015
Tom Selleck is brilliant in this story, set in colonial Australia. A great adventure yarn, sometimes deeply touching, a fine score. I bought this to replace my out-moded VHS tape and know I will be watching it many times in the future.