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Review: THE PROPOSITION by John Hillcoat, Nick Cave

posted on March 28, 2007 at 8:25 am · filed under Reviews

Here goes; this is the first film review for the site. There will be many, many, many more. Because I like to write about movies and music, and errr… possibly people like to read about them. This first one was a great flick; there’s some good drunk scenes, as well. Read on for the whole dealio…

A while ago, I saw a flick called, if I recall correctly, “Gunslinger’s Revenge”. It starred David Bowie and Harvey Keitel, and I think it was supposed to be “rockstar meets western,” but what it actually was was fucking horrible to sit through. The story was cool, the actors were cool, the movie was complete and utter shit.

Tonight I undid watching that film. The searing agony which I thought would scar me forever was undone by “The Proposition”, and I bear those scars no more. Because “The Proposition” was “rock meets western” done balls-to-the-wall properly.

There are no actual rockstars in the film, for the record. I recognize a couple of the names, actor-wise, but to my knowledge none of them have a recording career. What they do have is TALENT, and a brilliant script provided by Mr. Nick Cave, of Bad Seeds fame (and some-time collaborator with Shane MacGowan among many other notables).

This movie simply doesn’t fail on any points. It’s a genre piece, and it’s got a particular mood and a particular sort of storyline that aren’t going to appeal to every moviegoer. But those of you who are into this type of thing are going to be very into this movie. It’s dark. It’s got a wonderfully lyrical bent, dialog- and storywise. It’s funny at times, moving at times, and sort of horrifying at times. It’s the kind of movie that thoughtful rockers ought to make. But it’s way better than you’d associate with “thoughtful rocker movie.”

Plot? Okay, cut to Australia back when it was still an absolutely wretched place to live populated mostly by prisoners and such (note: the prisoners were actually rather nice people who were horribly abused by their overseers, according to like, history and stuff, on the whole). This is a brutal, barbaric, lacking-in-dentistry sort of landscape. Into this landscape is thrust Captain Stanley, a British army officer tasked with bringing civilization to this savage wasteland. Biggest problem he sees? The Burns Gang, specifically the ringleader, Arthur Burns.

Arthur lead his gang on a rape-filled gorefest some time prior to the opening of the film, and his brother Charlie took baby-of-the-family Mikey with him and split. Stanley shoots the shit out of the shack they’re staying in, arrests Mikey, and offers Charlie a (the nominal) proposition: If Charlie brings in Arthur, Mikey and Charlie get pardoned. If he doesn’t Mikey gets hung. On Christmas day, of all times.

So we have the Burns-family-troubles plot, and the Stanley-versus-the-silly-fop-governor plot, and also the Stanley-marriage plot, all going on. And wonder of wonders, they’re ALL GOOD PLOTS. The fop-governor is the most cliche – you’ve seen it before – but it manages to still be appealing, and disgusting (the racism depicted is both realistic and pathetic, as is the complete disregard for the non-priveleged).

ALL of the plots manage to feel sort of mythical, as they unfold. Arthur Burns is portrayed by an actor with a dialect quite similar to Billy Connolly and the Burns Gang almost feels like “Boondock Saints” gone horribly wrong, as a result. He also has a touch of Dennis Hopper in “Apocalypse Now” in him, with his character being at turns messianic, at turns psychotic, and always simultaneously horrific and sympathetic. The nominal “lead,” his brother Charlie, is a brooding anti-anti-hero who isn’t so much struggling for redemption, as much as struggling to decide whether or not he even wants to be redeemed.

This film is pretty to look at, delightful to listen to, engrossing to experience, and interesting to contemplate. What more do you want?

— devlocke


  1. boognights, March 29, 2007:

    you blow and I don’t care

  2. boognights, March 31, 2007:

    your show thursday night rocked!!!! but u r still a fag

  3. devlocke, April 1, 2007:

    Dude, because you’re a friend, I’m leaving that shit there. But let the record state that if I don’t know you and you post crap like that I’ll either delete it or make fun of you mercilessly. 🙂

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