I tried watching this film a couple of years ago. I could tell that I was going to enjoy it, but I had to turn it off. I was in the mood for something a bit lighter, and The Proposition is by no means a light flick.
The 2005 offering is a rare case where the screenwriter is perhaps more of a draw than the director. Nick Cave (whose new album I reviewed recently) handles the former duties, and shares the burden of the excellent score with Warren Ellis. But director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) is certainly no slouch. The result is an exceedingly dark, gritty screenplay from Cave, married with a revisionist western set in the Australian outback and rife with graphic violence. It’s not Walkabout, but there’s no dearth of pretty scenery.
The reason behind the title is made clear very early in the movie. Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey (Richard Wilson) Burns have left their family gang, but have been tracked down by Captain Stanley. After the brothers lose the film’s only gunfight, Charlie is offered a proposition: if by Christmas he kills his brother Arthur, the most psychotic and bloodthirsty of the bunch, then both Charlie and Mikey will be set free.
Charlie sets off on his quest, running into a fantastic John Hurt (portraying bounty hunter Jellon Lamb) along the way before finding the rest of his gang. It turns out that his brother, Arthur, is a fan of poetry. Unfortunately, the character is never fleshed out too much, but Danny Huston puts on a strong performance in his screen time.
Meanwhile, Stanley is far from the man he portrays in the opening scene. Played by Ray Winstone, he doesn’t command the respect of his subordinates, and was forced to move from England to Australia by his wife, played by Emily Watson. As we see him juggle disenchantment with his job and attempts to keep his wife in the dark about its nature, Captain Stanley turns into an excellent character, heightened by a standout performance from Winstone.
If you can stand the graphic violence, seek out this film. It’s a solid movie at the least, and frequently excels.