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Overall Rating
4.08

Awesome42.47%
Worth A Look: 39.73%
Average: 2.74%
Pretty Bad: 13.7%
Total Crap: 1.37%

5 reviews, 43 user ratings


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Proposition, The (2006)
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by Scott Weinberg

"...and you thought America's Civil War was ugly!"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: White-hatted good guys and cartoonishly sneering villains work really well when you're doing a "Die Hard"-type action flick, but when it comes to historical dramas based on controversial events, it's always nice to witness a group of filmmakers willing to dabble in shades of gray. John Hillcoat & Nick Cave's "The Proposition" is one example of a movie in which you really have very little idea who to "root" for ... and I mean that as a rather large compliment.

Guy Pearce is a late-19th century Australian outlaw known as Charlie Burns. Ray Winstone is Captain Stanley, one of the men charged with bringing law and order to the country's untamed plains. Seems like a pretty straightforward story so far, right? As an audience, we should want the representative of law and order to eradicate the evildoers, yes?

Well, maybe. And since The Proposition is based on actual events, it's really great to see that the story is brought to cinematic life with a sort of duality; Winstone's a good guy in many respects ... but not all. And Burns is a noble, loyal fellow ... who's also been (at least partially) responsible for some truly heinous crimes.

Sort of an anti-Western history lesson that sticks you right in the middle of the action without any kind of blueprint or signposts, The Proposition is a blisteringly violent, visually stunning, and morally ambiguous tale of revenge, hatred, loyalty, and honor -- although not necessarily in that order.

As the film opens, Charlie and his generally innocent little brother have been captured by Captain Stanley, and the no-nonsense lawman offers Charlie a truly difficult proposition: Come back with the head of his brother Arthur (a man known for his particularly vicious ways) or little brother Mikey will swing from the noose. To Stanley it seems like a no-lose proposition; even if Charlie refuses to return with proof of his older brother's demise, he still has the young one to offer to his overseers. Not surprisingly, the Captain's superior (the truly oily Eden Fletcher, as played by David Wenham) doesn't exactly see things this way.

And then there's the softer and possibly more moral side of Stanley, which is in evidence whenever he's dealing with his dainty wife Martha (Emily Watson). Charlie, on the other hand, is predictably conflicted about what to do; he seems well aware that Arthur deserves whatever punishment is coming down the pike, but still -- it's not easy to sentence your own brother to death.

These are the sort of prickly morality issues that are tossed about in The Proposition, and they serve to elevate the film well beyond that of a mere action film or hoary old history lesson. The filmmakers know that there are two sides to every story, and when a civil war is involved, perhaps even more than just two.

The Proposition grabs you from the very first scene, one in which we're plunked right down into the middle of a ferocious gun battle; the viewer has no idea who's shooting at whom, nor do we have a chance to side with any of the gunslingers. And once Stanley manages to cart Charlie and Mikey away, things get even more uncertain. In most movies, the lawmen are on the side of right, and the prisoners are rightfully punished. Here, all bets are off. The heroes are as devious as anyone, and the villains maintain their own strict code of morality.

Visually gorgeous, stunningly violent, and entirely gripping throughout, "The Proposition" brings to life a portion of Australia's violent history that you probably know nothing about. And while the film might leave you with just any many new questions as it does answers, well, that's why we have libraries, history books, and encyclopedias.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12771&reviewer=128
originally posted: 09/15/05 01:54:27
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For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Independent Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2006 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/02/10 PAUL SHORTT HARSH BUT POWERFUL 3 stars
2/09/10 Will Tomory Cliched, predictable, laughable gore pore 2 stars
12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 5 stars
11/03/08 brian Poorly developed, unnecessarily gory, but very well made. 3 stars
5/26/08 mr.mike It was pretty good 4 stars
11/28/07 Edwin Menguin Mesmerising 5 stars
9/23/07 John Howard absolutely superb - Australian drama at its best! 4 stars
8/22/07 harry very good film..the more times you watch it the more you appreciate it 5 stars
8/16/07 Rose Pasibe The is probably the best western I've seen. Jaw dropping!! 5 stars
5/20/07 Derek Fleek Pretty good Australian film 4 stars
10/31/06 Indrid Cold Nick Cave shouldn't quit his day job. Well, actually he should quit that too. 2 stars
10/23/06 John S. here are the "quarters" where it was well recieved: Sundance, NY Times, Boston Globe etc. 5 stars
10/11/06 Lance Not a good film....a GREAT film...best western since 'Unforgiven" 5 stars
10/08/06 daniel excellent western, good guys are not always good, bad guys not necessarily bad 4 stars
9/20/06 James Craig Wow, a real moralistic quagmire. Great! 5 stars
8/31/06 porfle I think it's a great Western. 4 stars
8/19/06 jcjs drop dead wow in action, acting, truth, visual, entertainment, intense, as good as it gets 5 stars
6/11/06 S.K.Adams Stunning, in story and photography. 5 stars
6/10/06 Ole Man Bourbon Not great--kinda wishy-washy 4 stars
6/09/06 Melissa Sonnen fantastic, smart, entertaining 5 stars
5/31/06 Jacqueline Flawed. The good guy is n anarchist racists and the bad guy also. 2 stars
5/30/06 Alissa Love it! 5 stars
5/29/06 hdfeldmann@aol.com Visually stunning, great music, unnecessarily gory and bloodyand difficult to understand 4 stars
5/15/06 Mase Down and dirty, visually stunning but perhaps lacking a soul. Great western aussie flick. 4 stars
5/08/06 chienne Savage & depressing. But very good. 4 stars
5/08/06 lee Great film!!!! 5 stars
4/01/06 MP Bartley Offbeat, but savage, poetic and powerful. Winstone and Watson are superb. 4 stars
3/12/06 Graham A full-on, gory, Gothic, poetic Western, just like how I like 'em. 5 stars
2/20/06 Todahe Well done! 4 stars
11/27/05 Kobbo Good stuff! 5 stars
10/26/05 Bill Fock Outstanding, very violent. 5 stars
10/26/05 Mr Majestic Bleak, gritty, amazing film. Extraordinary. Ray Winstone was GREAT! 5 stars
10/23/05 John Tracey simply great 5 stars
10/15/05 Tom Dutkowski Brutal, Violent, gripping. A story to match the outback landscape. 5 stars
10/08/05 john bale Violent film suggesting a hard land brutalises those trying to tame it. 5 stars
10/08/05 SUzanne Howard Undercooked script & overcooked production. No character development. Boring & clumsy. 2 stars
10/07/05 Danno the Movie Manno Finally a good Aussie film... 5 stars
10/06/05 fred Amazing...A fantastic Film 5 stars
10/03/05 Anna Beautiful, brutal and completely uncompromising in every respect. 5 stars
9/28/05 E. Northam Intriguing script; superbly cast; intelligently directed; magnificent use of natural design 5 stars
9/25/05 wong kar wai sucks!!! 1 stars
9/22/05 Jane bloody good movie - not typically my preference but the movie makes more than up for that 5 stars
9/02/05 Jim Johnson Awesome movie, with even more awesome soundtrack by Cave, check it out. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  05-May-2006 (R)
  DVD: 19-Sep-2006

UK
  10-Mar-2006

Australia
  06-Oct-2005


Directed by
  John Hillcoat

Written by
  Nick Cave

Cast
  Tom Budge
  Guy Pearce
  Emily Watson
  Ray Winstone
  David Wenham
  John Hurt



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