The Proposition (2005) * Hidden Gem *
Genre: Action Crime Western Drama
Starring: Guy Pearce (Memento; L.A. Confidential), Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast; Ripley's Game)
Directed By: John Hillcoat
Overview: A man is offered a proposition by the law: "Hunt down your evil older brother and kill him before we hang your younger sibling. He'd let you find where he's hiding. Make things easy for us and your younger brother will get a pardon. You have nine days."
Acting: This director will certainly be making a name for himself. This Australian's career has been pretty much rock videos up till now, and with such big names as John Hurt, Danny Huston and Emily Watson, I'm sure he was just a little intimidated, telling these proven actors to do it again. The stars all play their roles perfectly, Watson delivers a tremendous monologue and even Hurt's small role manages to be one of the strongest.
Cinematography: A mix of professional normalcy and high-art photography, we have the familiarity of the American West and the uniforms of the Union, but get this: it's Australia. The outback is a perfect environment, gorgeous and harsh, unbidden and original. Add the cinematographic flair of scenes tremendously well-storyboarded, even those of you who can only appreciate Sergio Leone for his Western mastery will begrudgingly accept these visual displays as peer.
Script: "What is an Irishman but a nigger turned inside out?"
Thanks to this story's author, this will draw audiences to the theaters. When I saw 'written by Nick Cave' (of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds fame, probably my favorite songwriter, given his lyrical genius), I instantly made this the sole reason for seeing this film. I had high expectations, and will admit that the poetry was not all there, and the accents were often hard to follow. I didn't get any of the 'sparks of consciousness' that come from reading a great book, but the words do delve wonderfully and subtly into the characters and their development. Without that aspect this would just have been a hide-and-seek story, so I give credit where it's due.
Plot: No, it's not just some Wild West story, it's honest and graphic, gory and rich with personal strife. Think how you would react to being offered freedom for one brother in exchange for going out and killing another. The ideas of rescue, forfeiture, cold-blooded-in-the-back fratricide and guilt all get their fair share in the mind of our anti-hero, as expected. Australia also adds an interesting flair, as does the angle of the treatment of Aboriginals. This is original in that we see and empathize with the both sides of the coin, the law-makers and the law-breakers. One of the most cerebral Westerns I've ever seen.
Mood: The characters and their morality, their uniqueness, that is what sets this apart from the typical Western. There are nuances; there is the lesson of experience and justice in the Captain's eyes, and the naivete of civilization and the hard 'rule of law' from those in their white towers. Among the more immoral family clan, there is always doubt and the predictability of actions is never there. If you like Westerns, and you like to keep guessing where a story is going to take you, this is it, but be warned, the gasps of the audience on three occasions prove that there are some split-second short yet severely graphic scene that are to me, only instil deeper the harsh reality of this rugged tale.
Overall Rating: 88% (Allow Me To Insist)
Aftertaste: This production epitomises teamwork. We have these perfect roles, tremendous cinematography, some nice mood music and a good script, and everything comes together with a heightened realism. I'd bet even the director wondered why it was going so easily. What did I learn from this one? The marketing and word of mouth taught me 'Stick to your guns, never believe what anyone tells you, even if it's right before your eyes, like a trailer.' If you love the works of the people involved (Nick Cave in my case) the worst that will happen is that it'll turn out to be 'fine'. When I heard it was terrible from a friend that you'd never expect to see at a Western, I trod on. People are too malleable, too easily influenced. See something, if you have any doubts that it might just be your cup of tea.