By now you’ve got to know I hate westerns (as noted here). It’s not my fault; I blame a culture that doesn’t reward anything but the most frenetic entertainment. The Proposition, while well done overall is also very western with pistols and tumbleweed all over the place. Sadly, I hold this kind of thing against it because I’m not such a giving fellow.
The film starts with terrible credits but finds some redemption when the bullets start flying from the first second of the live action. The plot is not so straightforward from the outset but essentially what we are dealing with here is the frontier of Australia back when the British were still trying to colonize it. It’s much like the American wild wild west (without Will Smith) as military men are trying to tame the savage bandits. Guy Pearce plays one of the bandits, but his brother evidently is a much worse style of criminal. The military makes a deal with Pearce (upon his capture) that if he delivers his older brother to them they’ll let his younger brother and him off for their crimes. So that’s the deal (or the proposition), a colonizing power pitted against the land and the outlaws. Get some!
I did like a lot of The Proposition. Guy Pearce is really good, though I’m not exactly sure why he keeps playing characters with such bad teeth. John Hurt is even better; I’d call him outstanding in his ten minutes of screen time as a kook. After his role in V for Vendetta (as chancellor) and now this I think we can officially say he’s on a role. Plus, at 66 he can collect social security if the acting thing goes south. The film is very nuanced throughout, it can be hard to tell who to root for which I like in a movie. It adds a certain element of tension to the dramatic scenes. The Proposition also does well to point out the plight of Australian aborigines. Although the film isn’t about that particular subject it’s nice that it doesn’t ignore a little known historical monstrosity. So kudos all around for acting, subtlety, and message. If you were associated in any way with the film close this review now and chalk it up as a win.
Some of the things I didn’t like about The Proposition are germane to all westerns and some complaints only apply to this flick. I could’ve used less pensive and poignant looks out into the distance. I became bored with the idea that the land is forlorn and out to get you. Undoubtedly it was, but who cares? Much of the film is mired in a very deep accent which makes understanding it tough in portions. I also wish the music by Nick Cave could’ve stuck out more. He’s an artist I dig but this score seemed like film 101. My last real issue was the fact that no one figured out what I realized after about ten minutes, hey everybody, how’s about we get the hell out of Australia?
I can’t really recommend The Proposition because it’s not a slam dunk. It has good moments and it’s executed well but I didn’t find the storyline to be compelling enough to hold my interest throughout. Was this because it was a western? Yes, of course, I mentioned that bias at the outset. If you are a fan of westerns or a Guy Pearce aficionado this should clearly be on your docket. Otherwise, you should probably take a pass.