Directed by John Hillcoat, starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham, Emily Watson and Richard Wilson.
Set in the harsh surrounds of the Australian Outback in the 1880s, 'The Proposition' is an unapologetic look at the tense relationship between the different elements that made up that fledgling society.
Written by Nick Cave and expertly brought to screen by John Hillcoat, this movie covers a multitude. There is a lot of violence, with some moments of tenderness. The setting is extremely rugged, yet beautiful at the same time. The story at its heart is a simple one, but complexities abound throughout. The characters reflect the dichotomy of Cave's essay. There is good and evil in all of them and it is left to the viewer to decide which side of the eternal battle holds sway in each.
Irish interest will centre on the Burns family, who have proven a thorn in the side of the colonial law enforcers. When two members of the outlawed clan are captured, Captain Stanley (Winstone) makes Charlie (Pearce) an offer. The men are wanted on rape and murder charges, but Stanley is willing to pardon both Charlie and his younger brother Mikey (Wilson). However, the exemption will only be granted if the former kills his older sibling, the psychotic Arthur (Huston).
Winstone turns in a quality performance as the amiable Stanley, who is trying to bring order to the territory while also attempting to shield his wife Martha (Watson) from the brutal reality of the world he has brought her half way across the globe to. Huston and Pearce manage to carry off the weird brotherly relationship. Huston is particularly good as the almost schizophrenic Arthur - a loving brother, but a vicious thug to boot.
Pearce - never a stocky man - is strikingly gaunt in this role. No doubt he would have required a couple of hefty meals at the end of filming.
'The Proposition' has been described as Australia's 'Unforgiven'. It does portray many characteristics of a Western, but it would be a shame if the link to that genre turned some off seeing this. Only the squeamish, the ultra politically correct and perhaps those who have never failed to wash their hands before dinner have reason to give this one a miss. The lack of hygiene is palpable and you could be forgiven for needing a shower after viewing.
The flea-ridden landscape lends itself to brilliant cinematography and the lingering shots of lengthy sunsets are spectacular. Hillcoat gets the violence just right. He avoids gratuity without ever pussyfooting around the issue.
The sign of a good movie is when you could easily go straight back into cinema and watch it again. This is one of that breed, though you may have to go home and change first.