The Proposition

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The Proposition
The Proposition 5.jpg
Promotional poster for The Proposition
Directed by John Hillcoat
Produced by Chris Brown
Chiara Menage
Jackie O'Sullivan
Cat Villiers
Written by Nick Cave
Starring Guy Pearce
Ray Winstone
Emily Watson
Danny Huston
David Wenham
John Hurt
Music by Nick Cave
Warren Ellis
Cinematography Benoît Delhomme
Editing by Jon Gregory
Distributed by First Look Pictures
Release dates 6 October 2005 (AUS)
Running time 104 minutes
Country Australia
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget ~$2,000,000[1]
Box office $5,048,693[2]

The Proposition is a 2005 Australian western film directed by John Hillcoat and written by screenwriter and musician Nick Cave. It stars Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt, Danny Huston and David Wenham. The film's production completed in 2004 and was followed by a wide 2005 release in Australia and a 2006 theatrical run in the U.S. through First Look Pictures.

Plot[edit]

Set in the Australian outback in the 1880s, the movie follows a series of events following the horrific rape and murder of the Hopkins family, likely committed by the infamous Burns brothers gang.

The film opens in a remote wood building with a violent gunfight between the police and Charlie Burns' (Guy Pearce) gang, which ends with the deaths of all of the gang members except for Charlie and his younger brother Mikey. Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) makes a proposition to Charlie: he and the feeble-minded Mikey can go free of the crimes they have committed if Charlie kills his older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston). Arthur is a mercurial psychopath who is so vicious the Aboriginal tribes refer to him as "The Dog Man" and both the police and the Aboriginals refuse to go near his camp. Captain Stanley states his intention to civilize the harsh Australian wilderness by bringing Arthur to justice and using Mikey as leverage. Charlie has nine days to find and kill Arthur, or else Mikey will be hanged from the gallows on Christmas Day.

Captain Stanley's motivations for taming Australia are revealed: he has been forced to move there with his delicate wife, Martha Stanley (Emily Watson), and apparently wants to make it a safer place for them to live. The Stanleys were friends of the Hopkins family, leading Martha to have nightmares about her dead friends. Word spreads of Stanley's deal with Charlie, primarily from Stanley's corrupt subordinate, Sergeant Lawrence (Robert Morgan), causing disgust among the townspeople.

Shortly thereafter, Eden Fletcher (David Wenham), for whom Captain Stanley works, orders that Mikey be given one hundred lashes as punishment for the rape and murder of the Hopkins family. Stanley is aghast at this, not only because he believes Mikey is likely innocent and the flogging may kill him or harm him irreparably, but also because it will break his deal with Charlie and bring the Burns gang's revenge upon him and his wife. Stanley sends Sergeant Lawrence away with tracker Jacko (David Gulpillil) and other men to "investigate" the reported slaying of Dan O'Riley by a group of Aborigines.

Meanwhile, Charlie rides in search of Arthur, drinking and apparently reflecting. Along the way, he encounters an inebriated old man named Jellon Lamb (John Hurt). In the course of conversation, Charlie realizes that Lamb is a bounty hunter in pursuit of the Burns brothers and knocks him out. Later on, after sleeping on a rock bed, Charlie awakes and is speared in the chest by a group of Aboriginal men standing over him. Seconds later a gunshot is heard and the head of the man who threw the spear explodes. Charlie then passes out.

Charlie wakes up in the camp of his brother Arthur, located in caves among desolate mountains. Arthur's gang consists of Samuel Stoat (Tom Budge), who shot the Aboriginal man who had speared Charlie; a woman named Queenie (Leah Purcell) who tends to Charlie's wound; and a muscular Aboriginal man called Two-Bob (Tom E. Lewis). As he recovers from his wounds, Charlie has several opportunities to kill his brother, but does not.

Captain Stanley attempts to defend Mikey by gunpoint from the bloodthirsty townspeople, but is overruled once Martha arrives, insisting on revenge for her dead friends. Mikey is brutally flogged and horrifically wounded. The formerly excited townspeople slowly become disgusted and Martha faints at the ghastly display. Captain Stanley grabs the whip and throws it at Fletcher, staining him with blood. Fletcher fires Stanley.

Near Arthur's camp, Sergeant Lawrence and his men have found and butchered a group of Aborigines. Arthur and Two-Bob find Lawrence's group while they sleep and kill Jacko and Sergeant Lawrence. Before Arthur stomps Lawrence to death, Lawrence tells Arthur that Charlie has been sent to kill him. Jellon Lamb enters Arthur's camp and ties up Samuel and Charlie, both of whom are sleeping. Lamb is shot from behind by the returning Two-Bob. Arthur then begins torturing the still-living Lamb with a knife. Charlie points his revolver at Arthur, but instead shoots Jellon in the head, putting him out of his misery.

Charlie decides he wants to break out Mikey and informs Arthur. Arthur, Samuel and Charlie ride into town dressed in the clothes taken from the officers Arthur and Two-Bob had killed, while Two-Bob poses as an Aborigine they have captured. Once at the jail, the men free Mikey, and Charlie and Two-Bob ride off with him. Arthur and Samuel remain to torture and slaughter the two officers inside the jail. The badly injured Mikey, who has never recovered from the flogging, dies in Charlie's arms. As they bury Mikey, Two-Bob tells Charlie that all of this is Charlie's fault: "You should never have left us."

Captain Stanley and Martha let their guard down to have a peaceful Christmas dinner. Immediately following their conclusion of grace, Arthur and Samuel shoot open the door and invade their home. Arthur pulls Captain Stanley into the other room and brutally beats him, while Samuel taunts his wife. Samuel drags Martha inside, and Arthur shoots Captain Stanley through the shoulder. As Samuel assaults Martha, Charlie walks in and informs Arthur of Mikey's death; Arthur ignores the news and encourages Charlie to listen to Samuel's beautiful singing. Charlie walks up to Samuel and shoots him point blank in the head, then shoots Arthur twice, saying afterward, "No more." Arthur staggers out of the house. Charlie tells Captain Stanley "I want to be with my brother." He leaves the house and follows a trail of blood to find Arthur seated on the ground nearby and sits down next to him. Arthur states that Charlie has finally stopped him and asks what he will do now, to no answer, and dies as his brother watches the blood red sunset of the outback.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

The film's soundtrack, titled The Proposition, was released shortly after the film in October 2005. The music was composed and performed by Nick Cave and violinist Warren Ellis.

All tracks are directly reproduced from the musical interludes in the film, and feature little alteration from the film score. Many songs on the album are slow-tempo and ballad-like, and the violin work of Warren Ellis becomes the central voice of the album for much of the time. The album is instrumentally focused, and is a departure from Cave's band-oriented compositions. Cave's unusual vocal performances on the "Rider" trilogy of songs brings a particularly haunting and uneasy tone to the album.

Critical response[edit]

The Proposition has received highly positive reviews from professional film critics, earning an 87% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 123 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The critical consensus is: "Brutal, unflinching, and violent, but thought-provoking and with excellent performances, this Australian western is the one of the best examples of the genre to come along in recent times."[3] The film received an average score of 73 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 31 reviews.[4]

Roger Ebert, giving it 4 out of a possible 4 stars, described the film as a "A movie you cannot turn away from; it is so pitiless and uncompromising, so filled with pathos and disregarded innocence, that it is a record of those things we pray to be delivered from.". AM New York, The Austin Chronicle and Entertainment Insider also gave the film 4/4 stars.[5][6]

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe said of it "A near-masterpiece of mood and menace, and one that deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible".[7]

J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader said "This Aussie feature perfectly re-creates the charbroiled landscapes and cruel psychodrama of the old Sergio Leone westerns, with John Hurt particularly fine as a raging old mountain goat." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said it is "A pitiless yet elegiac Australian Western as caked with beauty as it is with blood."[8]

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said that it is "A visionary tale of a fragile civilizing impulse crushed by family loyalty and a lust for revenge in the vast Outback of the late 19th century."[9]

Nick Rogers of Suite101.com said that "John Hillcoat's violence-probing Western feels as uncompromisingly bleak, royally widescreen and graphically violent as any Sam Peckinpah opus - a sunburned, grimy-nailed saga of point-blank executions and blood wrung from a cat o' nine tails."[10]

Chris Barsanti of the Film Journal International called it "The finest, strangest and most uncompromising western to hit screens since Unforgiven." [11]

Indigenous culture[edit]

Two acclaimed Indigenous Australian actors (David Gulpilil and Tom E. Lewis) have supporting roles in the film.

As noted in behind-the-scenes features included on The Proposition DVD, the film is regarded as uncommonly accurate in depicting indigenous Australian culture of the late 19th century, and when filming in the outback, the cast and crew took great pains to follow the advice of indigenous consultants. In an interview included on the DVD, Lewis even compares the depiction of indigenous cultures in The Proposition to the landmark film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978).

DVD[edit]

The DVD was released in the United States by First Look Pictures on 19 September 2006.

Tartan Video's Region 2 DVD release in the UK was a two-disc release and contains these additional features: audio commentary by Nick Cave and John Hillcoat on disc 1, exclusive interviews with Guy Pearce and Danny Huston (25 mins), a "meet the cast and crew" feature (35 mins), a "making of" feature (118 mins) and a theatrical trailer on disc 2.

The film was released on Blu-ray on 19 August 2008.

Awards[edit]

Box office[edit]

The Proposition grossed $2,271,100 at the box office in Australia.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]