Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, David Wenham, John Hurt, Tom Budge, Richard Wilson, Robert Morgan, Noah Taylor
Written by: Nick Cave
Directed by: John Hillcoat
MPAA Rating: R for strong grisly violence, and for language
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/12/2005
IMDB

The Proposition (2006)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Western Grunge

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gloomy rocker Nick Cave wrote this amazingly rich, vicious Western, set in Australia. The Burns brothers have caused chaos all over the country, including raping and killing a pregnant woman. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) has quit the gang, taking with him his little brother Mikey (Richard Wilson), and leaving the most dangerous brother, Arthur (Danny Huston) still at large.

When British peace officer Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) captures the first two, he makes a deal: if Charlie kills Arthur by Christmas Day, he won't hang Mikey.

Unlike your typical Western, The Proposition deliberately blurs the lines between good and evil. The officers of the law have just as much nasty baggage as the most brutal killers. In one key scene, the townspeople demand that the imprisoned Mikey -- clearly a pathetic, impressionable kid -- receive 100 lashes for his crimes. After only a couple of dozen lashes, a pair of hands wring out the leather whip like a washcloth, blood spattering on the ground. The townspeople can no longer stand it, and they walk away before the punishment is complete.

John Hurt gives a wonderful supporting performance as a scrappy, leathery bounty hunter, and Emily Watson plays Captain Stanley's proper British wife -- who makes tea and poached eggs and manages to conjure up a Christmas tree for their humble cottage (complete with flowers and picket fence); she may be the most nuanced female character ever to appear in a Western.

Director John Hillcoat, formerly of music videos, gives the movie a Cinemascope grunge, a dirty, sickly yellow atmosphere with a soundtrack of humming flies.

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