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The Western, transplanted to Australia, with startling results,
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This review is from: The Proposition [DVD] (DVD)
A new cinematic sub genre now exists. The Australian western. The Proposition though transplants the mythic landscape of The American versions into a broiling sun/sand blasted fly plagued hell hole. It's not a nice place, slavered in heart that regularly fluctuates between 40-50 degrees centigrade. You sort of wonder why anyone would want to be there in the first place.
But there people are, in 1880 the British have set up a settlement in Banyon, a newly established town in Queensland. Overseen by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) who along with his wife Martha (Emily Watson) have made a futile attempt to relocate their homeland into this godforsaken place with their net curtains carefully tended garden and roast Sunday lunches the settlement is under a pall of fear after a vicious gang of outlaws led by the psychopathic Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) have slaughtered a family of settlers. Stanley eager to tame this frontier land hunts down and captures Burns brothers Charlie (Guy Pearce) and his semi-retarded kid brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) and offers Charlie a gut wrenching proposal. In order to save Mickey and himself from the hangman he must hunt and kill his older brother.
Given 9 days to carry out this onerous task Charlie sets out on a journey redolent of Marlow's search for Kurtz in Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness", into an unforgiving unknown with god knows what horrors at the end of it.
The Proposition is as, everyone remotely interested in the film knows, is written by Nick Cave , and anyone familiar with his music, most notably it's preoccupation with death , murder and brutal lyricism , and also his novel "And The Ass Saw The Angel" will not be too surprised at the levels of violence. The blood letting is in all truth a little over the top straying too close to horror grand guignol at times but the exceptional performances by all the cast with notable cameos from John Hurt as aged bounty hunter Jellon Lamb and the expressive script more than compensate.
Directed by John Hillcoat who has collaborated with Cave on the film "Ghosts of The Civil Dead" who in turn wrote the rather fine sound track for Hillcoats "To Have And To Hold"( Cave provides the soundtrack here along with Bad Seeds stalwart Warren Ellis) the films themes are multi layered and complex utilising a number of dichotomous situations- family ties versus survival, civilisation versus the frontier, the subjugation of an indigenous population versus their willing co-operation , to produce a film that echoes richly with themes common with the traditional western yet gives them a slightly contemporary sadistic twist without compromising any of it's poetry or emotional resonance.
The western is alive and well and currently residing in Australia, but it's a more savage beast by far .