Monday, November 06, 2006
The Proposition
In which V reviews a most impressive film.

If someone were to ask me, "hey V, do you like westerns?" I would say no. But this isn't strictly true, in the same way that I don't like country music, but I like Johnny Cash.

Let me explain. My dad likes westerns. He watches westerns all day long, cheesy technicolor things starring John Wayne. The kind of tripe where Native Americans are played by white actors in orange makeup. These films actively piss me off. But then you get westerns that are more sort of avant-garde, and usually I really like those. For example, High Plains Drifter wherein the protagonist is not really a cowboy but is more likely Death. That was a good one. Or Dead Man, which defies explanation, but really when you put Johnny Depp in a Jarmusch film you can't lose. Or Last Man Standing in which you have Bruce Willis, ultraviolence, and a Kurosawa story all in one film. Priceless.

Um, also I really liked the Young Guns films, which have, like, zero artistic merit. But I was a teenager and they had Keifer Sutherland in them. Which is a good enough excuse really.

Anyway, this all brings us to The Proposition, which is a guaranteed winner from the start. This film is written by Nick Cave, with music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. You only have to spend about five minutes with me to grasp the fact that I am an obsessive fan of both Mr. Cave and Mr. Ellis. And I do mean obsessive, people.

Furthermore, the director is John Hillcoat of Ghosts of the Civil Dead fame. Well, maybe not "fame" as only about ten people have actually heard of this film. Rest assured it is the greatest prison film you'll ever see.

And look at that cast, people. Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, John Hurt... this is quality, people.

It would appear that I am heavily predisposed towards loving this film, and therefore am unable to write an unbiased review. Deal with it.

The premise is, you have this trio of outlaw brothers in the Australian outback around the turn of the century. The oldest is the ringleader, and he's pure evil. He orchestrates a home invasion crime wherein a pregnant woman is raped and killed. Following this, his two younger brothers decide they've had enough of his crazy ways and they want out. Eventually they're arrested by a police captain who wants to "civilize" the country. He makes a deal with the middle brother: go find your older brother and kill him, and I'll spare your mildly retarded younger brother from the noose.

You can see where this is bound to be totally full of peril, right? And drama and intrigue? Overall, it's a redemption tale.

I had heard some rumors about extreme violence in this film. Having seen it, I'll say yeah, there's violence. Lots of it. But no more than is reasonable or realistic for the story.

Some people (like M) might find it hard to take sides. The outlaws have done vile, reprehensible things. This is clear. But the lawmen, the traditional "good guys" of the story act in vile, reprehensible ways as well. I found myself asking, where would I draw the line? What punishment is appropriate here? The police captain talks about making Australia civilized, but the police aren't even civilized.

I was totally captivated by this film. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you don't usually like westerns. My only caution would be in regards to the violence... again, it's realistic for the plot, but very squeamish people will be bothered. I'd say this is a must-see, and is probably going to make my list of the year's best films.