A savage Western set in Australia's Outback, The Proposition is relentless in its intensity and bloody imagery. Set in the late 19th century, the film tells the brutal story of a gang of brothers that kills not out of desp... more »eration, but because they can. Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) is the mastermind who shares little in common (other than total disregard for human life) with his younger brother Charlie (Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential, Memento). When Charlie and their baby brother Mike (Richard Wilson) are captured, Charlie is offered a proposition to save their necks from the gallows. "Suppose, Mr. Burns, I was to give both you and your young brother Mikey, here, a pardon," offers Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). "Suppose I said that I could give you the chance to expunge the guilt beneath which you so clearly labor.... Now, suppose you tell me what it is I want from you." Without blinking, Charlie says, "You want me to kill my brother." For most people, this would be an unthinkable proposition. For Charlie, the answer's obvious. He'll do whatever he has to spare his own life, even if that means trading his for Arthur's. The Proposition at times is a difficult film to watch. But thanks to a compelling story by rocker Nick Cave and a supporting cast (including Emily Watson as the Captain's gentle wife), the film is a classic in the making. --Jae-Ha Kim« less
William W. (wdavidw) from TYLER, TX Reviewed on 8/1/2010...
This is a pretty good western, with plenty of mood and good ole western violence. It's a bit slow moving, which sets the tone and landscape well. Good music too by Nick Cave (the musician), which also wrote the screen play. Probably not one of my personal favorite westerns, and maybe not a classic, but worth watching if you enjoy the genre.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Gretchen D. (Gretchendz) from ADA, MI Reviewed on 9/7/2008...
It's a brutal film with some very fine performances--especially John Hurt, Ray Winstone and Danny Huston. Fantastic images of Australia. Has the look of an Australian Leone "spaghetti western."
5 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Duane S. (superpoet) from FORT WORTH, TX Reviewed on 6/15/2008...
This is the story of a brother who is part of an extremely dysfunctional brother team. One of his brothers is psychotic and commits atrocious murders in a rustic town in the 1880's. Two of the brothers were caught in the last fight. One is told that they would be freed if he could find the crazy brother and kill him. The youngest brother is left behind in the town jail and is given 100 lashes. He is barely alive at 39 lashes, before taken back to his cell.
The older brother finds his psychotic brother. What ensues for the rest of the film is the bonding of brothers, murders of 4 town deputies, and the attempted murder of the sheriff and his wife. Great story for men, but not for the ladies. Very gruesome.
4 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
A hellish and uncompromising journey through Australia's law
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 08/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first saw John Hillcoat's film The Proposition I was literally shocked and dumbstruck with what I had just witnessed. As a long-time aficionado of the horror genre I could say that part of me has become desensitized to onscreen violence and nothing really shocks me. Even though I've seen films with more violence throughout its running time, The Proposition just had a heavy sense of despair, moral ambiguity, and a Miltonian feel throughout. The film felt like how it would be if one accepted an offer from one of the damned to stroll down to the Nine Circles of Hell. As much as I didn't want to accept that offer the curiosity of what I might see won out. That's how I was able to sit through the entirety of Hillcoat's ultra-violent and nihilistic tale of lawless and amoral individuals in the untamed wilderness of 1880's Australian Outback.
I must agree with film critic Roger Ebert when he said The Proposition seemed to mirror another dark and violent tale. Hillcoat's film shares so much the same themes and tone as Cormac McCarthy's brutal novel, Blood Meridian, that one almost wondered if the film was adapted from McCarthy's great novel. But similarities aside, Hillcoat and Nick Cave's (director and writer respectively) film can clearly stand on its own two bloody legs.
The film begins with a bloody siege and shootout and we're soon introduced to two of the three Burns' brothers. We soon find out that both brothers, Charlie (played by Guy Pearce)and Mikey (played by Richard Wilson) are outlaws wanted for a multitude of heinous crimes with a recent one the senseless rape and murder of the Hopkins family. One Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone) who acts as law in this particular area of the Outback. He's gives older brother Charlie a proposition. He'll spare the younger brother's life from the hangman's noose if Charlie finds their older brother Arthur (played with Kurtz-like menace by Danny Huston) and kills the outlaw leader. The quest is set as Charlie accepts and sets out to find his brother. Whether Charlie will go through with killing his older brother Arthur is one thing the audience won't find out until the final minutes of the film. Even though there's no love-lost between Charlie and Arthur, there's still the traditional bond of family that makes Charlie's quest a complex one.
We realize early on that Charlie is very protective of his simpler, younger brother Mikey and would do anything to save his life. Guy Pearce does a great performance as the conflicted and brooding Charlie Burns. There's a quiet intensity in Pearce's performance. He's pretty quiet through most of the film, but one could feel the palpable rage just roiling beneath his brooding countenance. Pearce's Charlie is one who is only a trigger away from exploding into outright violence. Charlie is definitely a child and creation of the lawless Outback the film is set in.
Arthur Burns on the other hand is introduced as an almost warrior-poet who would watch the sun set and spout poetry as easily as gun down an innocent or slice a man's throat without missing a beat. Danny Huston does a bravura performance as the charismatic and wholly amoral Arthur. His performance easily matches that of Pearce's scene for scene. Another performance that I must point out as being very strong in the film is Ray Winstone as Capt. Stanley, the Ahab of the tale with his obsession to bring civilization to the lawless Outback and to bring Arthur Burns to ultimate justice even if it means dealing with the lesser evil that is Charlie Burns.
The Proposition will be talked about alot for its unflinching look at violence onscreen. Though there's been films that have more violence per hour than Hillcoat's film, but the extreme brutality of the killings, maimings and rape in The Proposition has such an air of realism to it that one cringes at every gunshot wound and knife slashing. Like Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, The Proposition's scenes of depravity makes one want to rush into the shower and cleanse off the dirt, grime and stink of the film. It's in this unflinching and realistic portrayal of death and violence that the film shares alot with McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The images are difficult to watch, but our curiosity makes us look through squinted eyes to see the full breadth of the violence. In time, just through the audiences acceptance of the oncreen violence do we soon become complicit in whats going on the screen.
It is a shame that The Proposition had such a limited release in the US. I think this film would've done as well as Eastwood's Unforgiven in giving the audience a different, darker side of the Old West mythology (though its really the Australian Old West). John Hillcoat has crafted himself a brutal and nihilistic film that's very hard to watch but also difficult to ignore. The Proposition is a film I highly recommened people see in the theaters before it disappears, but failing that they should search out for the dvd once its released in that medium. This film is that good."
Beautiful and brutal
RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 06/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has often been compared to Eastwood's spare and dark UNFORGIVEN. There are certainly many similarities in tone. But if anything, there is even less redemption available at the end of this Australian western than at the end of that Oscar winner.
Simply put, Ray Winstone plays the equivalent of the "new sheriff" in a very small, dreary dusty "western" town in Australia. The worst bandits in his area, the Burns brothers, are his primary goal, and when he corners and captures the two youngest brothers, Mickey and Charley (Guy Pearce), he offers Charley a proposition. He and his simple younger brother will be released if Charley goes out and kills his psychopathic older brother Arthur. If not, Mickey will be hung on Christmas Day, a few days away.
The fallout from this simple proposition is bleak, bleak, bleak. The film is slow moving and takes time to establish tone and to let us savor the unbelievable Australian scenery. As John Hurt (as a bounty hunter) says, it's the most horrific place he's ever been. The scenery is beautiful (sunsets, colorful rocks) and brutal...long expanses of sand and scruff. But the slow pace is punctuated with moments of extremely graphic violence. Each bullet hole or knife wound (or spear wound) is painful to watch. I'm not sure when I last saw a movie that made violence appear so unpleasant, so painful and so ugly.
Everyone in the film is great. Guy Pearce...exceedingly grubby...is torn between deciding how to deal with one of his brothers inevitably dieing. Ray Winstone gives a rich performance...just when we think we've got this guy figured out, he shows another layer. And then another. He wins our sympathy finally. Emily Watson is his wife, and her performance is a litle colorless...it's the biggest weakness in the characterizations. Not her fault...she's just too passive to be entirely believed.
The best performance comes from Danny Huston (John's son, Anjelica's brother) as Arthur, the psycho. His character appreciates nature and poetry, but also raping and slow, painful murders. He's a conundrum that's never fully explained...but Huston is riveting. His oily, sweaty, dirty face is etched with emptiness...I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me.
Other nice touches include an interesting soundtrack (co-written by Nick Cave, who wrote the script) and lots of stuff focusing on the uneasy melding of the "white" man and aboriginies. This adds an extra layer of sadness, and of danger, to all the proceedings.
I would give the movie 4.5 stars, if I could. It doesn't quite reach 5 (the pace is just occasionally over-indulgent...a couple of semi-important characters just drop from the story), but it's very compelling, very brutal filmmaking. NOT FOR KIDS!!!"
A Different Kind Of 'Western'
Craig Connell | Lockport, NY USA | 09/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
Wow, what a brutal "western." I put "western" in quotes because most people think of the western half of the United States as being the locale for western movies. This movie was made and set in Australia but the time frame is similar: around 1880. What's "brutal" about the story is the violence, bloodshed and language - but only in spots.
The language is odd in that the vocabulary of most of the people is above-average, but be warned there are a number of f-words. I question whether that word was around in the 19th century, but it's prevalent in this film. Actually, the violent scenes will be more offensive to viewers than the profanity. Like the profanity, however, the violence only comes in spurts. Most of the film has much calmer moments, surprisingly low-key.
One thing that is there throughout the 104 minutes is the excellent cinematography. This is a pretty film, nicely shot with some beautiful scenery and colors, stylish at times, too. To me, this was the best part of the movie. It's indeed a visual treat. Benoit Delholmme deservedly won several international awards for his camera-work in here."
There's Still Value In "The Western"
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 09/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Historically, and from a character perspective, there's still mining to be done in western films, and THE PROPOSITION gives us a great sense of both. Aussie director John Hillcoat delves into Australia in the 1880s, telling about the bloody lawlessness and aboriginal prejudices.
The story centers around the outlaw Burns brothers, Charlie (Guy Pearce, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), Mike (DECK DOGZ) and Arthur (Danny Huston, THE CONSTANT GARDNER). When Charlie and Mike are caught by local lawman Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone, COLD MOUNTAIN), Charlie is pulled aside and given a distasteful proposition: kill your brother Arthur and Mike will live. Charlie loves Mike dearly and hardly knows his other brother, Arthur. He grudgingly accepts the terms but it quickly becomes clear that he's unsure what to do. Is the killing of one family member in order to save another morally apprehensible? What if your moral boundaries are skewed?
Charlie rides off to find his brother in the searing Australian Outback.
Meanwhile, back in town, Captain Stanley is having great difficulty controlling its citizens once they learn one of the dreaded Burns brothers is in the local jail. A powerful bureaucrat named Eden Fletcher (David Wenham, THE LORD OF THE RINGS) demands swift justice. He orders that Mike Burns be lashed 100 times. Knowing that Mike probably won't survive this, but also battling feelings his lovely wife Martha (Emily Watson, GOSFORD PARK) has about the crimes Mike has committed, Captain Stanley is forced to give in to the township's demands.
Back in the Outback, Charlie finally runs into his twisted brother and comes face-to-face with his worst fears: killing someone of his own flesh and blood. Can he do it? Should he do it?
The word "epic" has been on the lips of many reviewers, but epic may be too big a term for this flick. It is enjoyable, and has sweeping views and great acting (even John Hurt makes a soulful appearance as a perverse bounty hunter), but it doesn't approach films such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or DOCTOR ZHIVAGO in scope. And that's okay. There are many films out there that are still very enjoyable but don't meet the epic criteria.
That the western film has been done for nearly a century might make one think that it's dying out as a genre. But no. THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUAIDES ESTRADA and UNFORGIVEN are two of the more recent favorites that prove there's still life out there for the western. And The Proposition is another excellent example that it's still got cinematic value."
A Great Western
S. C Sochet | syosset, NY United States | 07/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film, written by and with music from Nick Cave has scenic beauty, several scenes of horrific inhumanity, and excellent acting from beginning to end. Guy Pearce does a Sheen-like turn as the brother and Danny Huston as the Brando-type (loosely from Apocalypse Now). Emily Watson strongly plays the Captain's wife. Ray Winstone as the captain that wants to bring civilization to the outback of Australia. John Hurt has several memorable moments as the bounty hunter.
This movie shows what a great piece of art a Western can be. The endless possibilities. The wide open space. The polychromatic visions and desert landscape. Westerns juxtapose beauty and horror right next to one another as if they were Siamese twins. This is why historically, the Western places prominently in the best films of all time."