This is how they do Westerns in the land down undaaaaa, undaaaa!
During the 1800s, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by the ambitious-sheriff Stanley (Ray Winstone). Along with their psychopathic, blood-thirsty bro Arthur (Danny Huston), they are wanted for a brutal crime. However, both sides of the law don’t really seem to come together until Stanley makes Charlie a seemingly impossible proposition in an attempt to bring an end to the cycle of bloody violence. Will it work? Or will the bloodshed just continue on like it always does?
The film starts off with an action-packed opening, filled with guns shooting, girls screaming, and a bunch of Aussie accents that sound totally bad-ass. This starts off the film perfectly but also gets you off on the wrong-foot. See, it makes you think you’re in for a non-stop, blood-soaking, shoot ‘em up type of Western, when in reality, it’s the slow, melodramatic type where instead of shooting one another, they like to montage about their feelings. Just one of the very smart surprises director John Hillcoat gives us, that doesn’t feel like a rip-off of every other Western to come before it.
After seeing The Road, I realized that Hillcoat has a knack for setting a fine pace not only through his direction, but through his cinematography. The whole film takes place in the Australian Outback and you get a feel that this is a dirty, sweaty, and hot-ass place to be living in and it starts to set in pretty quickly that it all takes a big part of the story considering these people hate living in it, almost as much as you do looking at it. But as dirty and grimy as this flick may be, there are still plenty of beautiful visuals here to just soak up in your system. Whenever you have a film that can perfectly capture what the bloody red sky can look like when it starts to get dark in the middle of the day, then you know you have a keeper on your hands when it comes to visuals.
When in doubt, give Guy Pearce a beard. He’s always the man with one.
However, it’s not just all about the look, as dirty and sometimes beautiful it can be, it’s actually all about the tone and pace of the story that really takes over you. Is this film a slow Western that decides to take its time on its story rather than its grisly shoot ‘em up battles? Yes, but that does not mean it’s boring in the least bit. In fact, this film kept me on the edge of my seat at certain points because you don’t quite know where exactly this story is going to turn up, and where it does end up; you are damn sure as hell happy that writer Nick Cave decided to go with it. Hillcoat and Cave work great here together because they keep the story flowing smoothly and methodically, and make it seem like they are constantly on the same pace with what they want to show and how they want to show it. Through Cave’s writing, we get a glimpse at these characters, what they’re all about, what they’re motivations are, and why it all matters, but it isn’t just a bunch of guys weeping on about how they just killed for the first time, because there is violence.
And wow Nelly! When it hits, you won’t soon forget it.
The violence here is actually pretty awesome and even though it doesn’t take up the whole story with constant destruction, whenever it does pop-up; it’s bloody and gory to the core, but doesn’t feel like it’s just there to shock us and have us ready to vomit. Nope, it feels reasonable, if that’s all these characters have going for them is taking another person’s life. You can believe that some of these sick, psychotic son-of-a-bitches would actually go to these levels of violence, just to get their revenge and it feels real rather than feeling like something the creators felt like this movie needed. Can get a little cartoon-y at times with the blood-spurting out and all, but you can’t go wrong with violence that feels deserved, especially when you’re talking about a good ‘ole Western. Darn toooootin!
If there was something about this story that I didn’t like it was that I feel like it dropped the ball on the one thing that would have really made itself matter: it’s moral theme. All of the best Westerns, even the shoot ‘em ups that I’ve mentioned about 500 times in this review, all have one central message that is always looming underneath the surface, and then comes out of nowhere by the end to really make us start thinking. That’s exactly what I thought was going to happen with this movie and I think that’s what they thought as well, but the problem was that it doesn’t end up really being about much in the end. Yeah, there was some discussion about loyalty to family and responsibilities, but when you soak it with all of this bloodshed and bad-assery, does it really matter?
The answer to that is: well, not really. All of the violence and tension for the movie works, but giving it more meaning in terms of how it could have affected our train-of-thought, would have definitely made it more important. Hey, it’s fine for being all about the blood, the guns, the bullets, the horsies, and the hay stacks, but I wanted more. Hell, I needed more! Then again, I don’t really need all of that philosophical shit when I’m watching a movie about a bunch of cops and robbers, going around, shooting one another.
But everything gets better when you think about this awesome, all-star studded cast. Guy Pearce looks pretty damn intimidating as our anti-hero (if you want to call him that), Charlie Burns, a guy who just shows up and wants to do the right thing, even though the rest of his family really can’t. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s what goes through his head so I’m probably just making shit up about him. The guy probably killed families and robbed banks for all I know. But what I do know is that Pearce has that rugged look and feel to him that makes you believe that this guy could kill anything, or anyone that he wanted to, but he just chooses not to unless he actually is pushed to “that edge.” Then, all hell breaks loose and Guy Pearce at his finest.
“I’m sorry I cried last night while watching Grey’s Anatomy. It’s just so sad to see it getting ready to, darling.”
Somebody who really shocked me in this movie was Ray Winstone, because it isn’t the type of character you’d expect to see him playing, despite it also seeming like the type of dude he was practically born to play: the rough and tough dude that you don’t want to fuck with (that is, unless your Gandhi). But it still has him starting-off like he’s going to play that type of role with him seeming like the type of guy that just wants justice done, and will do anything to get it, but sooner or later, his true colors get shown off to us, and to the rest of the people around him. Once all is said and done and things seem to get a bit too heavy for him, we all see him for the big baby that he really is. Probably one of his least-intimidating roles the guy has ever played, and that’s a good thing because the cockney-gangster bit was getting sort of tired after awhile. The lady who has him come out of his shell and be a bit of a whimp is Emily Watson who is good at seeing why such a masculine, strong dude like him, would fall head-over-heels in love with this girl, and weep at her feet. Okay, she’s not that perfect of a human-being, but she is pretty damn gorgeous so I can definitely see why.
On the other side of the fence, you have Danny Huston playing another one of his evil roles, as the broski Arthur, and gives off a very creepy performance that makes you feel like this guy is going to do some bad shit, whether or not the person he does that to deserves it. He just wants to kill people for the sake of killing people and that’s what makes all of Huston’s roles pretty much scary as hell. Honestly, when has that guy ever played anybody that’s remotely nice in a movie? 21 Grams doesn’t count cause the guy is barely even in it! Don’t worry, I’ll wait here….
Consensus: The blood and guts that are spilled throughout the run-time of The Proposition make this movie worth the watch, as well as the cast, but underneath the surface; there doesn’t seem to be much else other than a bunch of guys just wanting to kill one another and possibly ride off into the sunset when the fun’s all over. So simple, yet, so twisted.
8/ 10 = Matinee!!
“You start tearin’ up again, mate, I’ll kill ya. With love, of course.”