* Prices may differ from that shown
It's a well-worn cliché that rock stars want to be actors and actors want to be rock stars. Unless you're melancholy Aussie singer Nick Cave, of; in which case you want to be a scriptwriter. Following the recent release of the Cave-penned Lawless, this seemed a good time to go back and take a look at his earlier effort, The Proposition.
It's set in rural Australia in the nineteenth century; a hard, dangerous world where death is never far away and where justice is brutal. The opening sees the capture of notorious outlaw Charlie Burns and his brother Mike by local lawman Captain Stanley. Rather than arresting (or killing) them both, Stanley makes Charlie an offer. If Burns kills his other brother, an even more dangerous and vicious outlaw, he will forgive Charlie and Mike their role in the horrific rape and murder of a family. If he refuses, Mike will be hanged in ten days - on Christmas Day.
What follows is a film that is intriguing, interesting and frustrating in equal measure. The basic plot is set up quickly and effectively with a short and violent gunfight that leads to the capture of the two brothers. This, along with the intriguing proposition instantly hooks the viewer in as you realise that, effectively, Charlie is being asked to choose which of his brothers should live or die.
It might, however, be slightly misleading. On the evidence of the opening sequence, you might be forgiven for expecting a movie that will feature plenty of gunplay, and this is not the case. The Proposition is a much slower-paced, talky affair which establishes tension not through the use of guns, but through the question that constantly nags away at the viewer's mind throughout: which brother will Charlie betray?
This, of course, generates a lot of tension. As Charlie starts to hunt for his brother, you start to wonder what he will do when he finds him - a question which isn't resolved until the very end. This sense of tension is complemented through a subplot featuring Captain Stanley. When word slowly gets out that Stanley captured both brothers, but let one go, hostility in the town is directed towards him and tensions start to rise further.
The Proposition is very much a slow-burning film and, as such, will not be to everyone's tastes. There is very little "action", and such action sequences that exist are usually short and realistic, rather than glamourized. Again, this is not a bad thing, but you do need to know what you are getting into.
True, it can sometimes go overboard on the slow-burning pace. Director John Hillcoat does an excellent job establishing the grim conditions in which 19th century Australians lived (and the even worse conditions of the indigenous population who were hunted down and killed or enslaved). He uses the Australian desert scenery to good effect, as a symbol of the isolation of both Charlie and Stanley; two people who find themselves in a very hostile environment for very different reasons.
However, it has to be said that he is also prone to over-doing these shots. There are lots of images of sunsets over the desert, of characters standing on rocky outcrops surveying the scenery, or of barren, dry landscapes. Beautiful though such sequences are, there are only so many times before you can see them without thinking "Yeah, yeah, another bloody Australian sunset. Can we get on with it please?" Used sparingly, such establishing shots can be highly effective, but Hillcoat's over-use blunts their impact.
At the film's heart are a couple of strong performances from Ray Winstone (Captain Stanley) and Guy Pearce (Charlie); two very different characters. Stanley is a man who hates unnecessary violence and does all he can to shield his wife (a rather lost Emily Watson from it and is even willing to overlook some violent acts if by doing so he can prevent worse violence. Charlie, on the other hand, sees violence as a way of life.
As you might expect, Winstone and Pearce play their parts quite differently. Winstone is his usual gruff, cockney self (justified in the script by the fact he is an immigrant), a decent man doing a difficult job and one who clearly loves his wife. This gives the film a solid emotional foundation on which to build. Charlie, meanwhile, is taciturn and silent; a man who broods and Pearce captures this well making Charlie a sympathetic, tortured figure, even though we know something of his brutal past. Both steer close to - but avoid - typical genre stereotypes and turn in compulsive performances.
So why did I say the film was frustrating? Well, partly it's the fact that the pace can be slow, but mostly because you feel that there are some big issues here which the film hints at but never really addresses.
Several times, for example, Stanley states his vow that "this land will be civilised", but the whole issue of what constitutes "civilised" is never addressed directly. How can it be "civilised", for example for one group of people or a nation to impose its views and structures on others? Similarly, the film raises some interesting questions about the notion of "justice" but never really does anything with them. And finally, the biggie: the rights of the indigenous Australian people. In The Proposition, they are nothing more than slaves to be killed at a whim. Whilst this is certainly an accurate portrayal of the views of 19th century Australians, it might have been nice to dig a little deeper into the issue.
It's easy to see why this film played on so few screens on release and made a relatively small amount of money. With its slow, languid pace and lack of action, it's not going to appeal to your average multiplex viewer. In many ways, it works better on DVD, since you can savour that slow-burning atmosphere and enjoy the strong, subtle performances from Winstone and Pearce.
Director: John Hillcoat
Running time: approx. 104 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
It is the sense of gritty realism that makes The Proposition such an appealing film. Set in the Australian outback during its colonial times at the turn of the 19th Centuary it has the feel of a spaghetti western just in a different location. It is certainly a brutal film with a high level of violence it will not be to everyone's taste.
Ray Winstone plays Captain Stanley who is based in the middle of the Australian outback and his remit is to squash a notorious gang called The Burns Gang who are a bunch of Irish convicts whose leader Arthur Burns, played by the excellent Danny Hutson, is a sadisctic psychopath. Stanley manages to capture two of the gang, brothers Mikey and Charlie, Charlie played by Guy Pearce is the older of the two and he is forced to track down Arthur Burns by Stanley as a way of saving Mikey (Richard Wilson) and he has only nine days to do it in.
In the hauntingly beautiful and barren Australian outback it would be hard not to make a stimulatingly visual film and certainly the Proposition is a gtreat to look at with some stunning scenery. Both Pearce and Winstone deliver competent enough performances however the real depth and menace comes from Danny Hutson who is excellent as the unbalanced psychopath whose gang commit a number of atrocities.
This is a hard hitting film and it is backed up with a quality soundtrack as well, certainly a film I would recommend seeing as it is a hard hitting and slightly original fiilm setting.
The Proposition (2005)
Writer: Nick Cave
Dir.: John Hillcoat
Guy Pearce - Charlie Burns
Richard Wilson - Mike Burns
Danny Huston - Arthur Burns
Ray Winstone - Capt. Stanley
Emily Watson - Martha Stanley
John Hurt - Jellon Lamb
Tommy Lewis - Two Bob
Oliver Ackland - Patrick Hopkins
In Australia, a police captain, Capt. Stanley, finally catches two members of the infamous Burns gang, Charlie Burns and his younger brother Mike Burns. However, Capt. Stanley is more interested in the leader of the gang, Charlie and Mike's older brother, Arthur Burns. So, he takes Mike prisoner and makes a deal with Charlie; he can save his younger brother from hanging by going after and killing his older brother.
Charlie finds his brother and his two other partners, Patrick and Two Bob out in no man's land, hiding in a cave. But, he doesn't kill them, he informs them of Mike's impending death and the four of them head toward town to rescue him.
Will they be able to get back in time to save Mike from the noose? And, how will they take their revenge out of Capt. Stanley?
This movie is just okay. It is an Australian dramatic West.
The movie is historically accurate and includes true aboriginals and two of Australia's best aboriginal actors.
The movie is decently written and decently directed.
The cast and their performances are all very good.
Ray Winstone, whom I like very much, is excellent in his role as Capt. Stanley. His character is tough, mean, gentle and tormented all at the same time, and Ray is able to pull off the performance beautifully.
Emily Watson is brilliant as Martha Stanley. She brings an almost innocent and calm quality to the movie that plays well amongst all the rough and gruff men.
There is relatively little dialogue in this movie compared to most. And, when there is dialogue is quite soft-spoken.
This movie was a hit with critics, but doesn't seem to have done much at the box office.
Overall, this is an okay movie. It's a little boring and slow moving with bits of action here and there that break up the monotony. As a fan of westerns I had much higher hopes for this one, but it wasn't nearly as good as I had anticipated and I was left quite disappointed.
If you're a fan of westerns you could easily do better than this one. I would not recommend this one.
The Proposition is a star cast led Western set in Australia in 1880's. It's about a gang of 3 lawless brothers on the run for rape and murder. Two get caught and handed over to Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone). Brother Charlie (Guy Pearce) is practical and brother Mikey is a childish simpleton. Stanley wants to capture the third brother Arthur (Danny Huston) as he is the most dangerous and wanted of the 3 so offers a deal to Charlie. If he finds and murders Arthur his brother Mikey will be spared from his Xmas day hanging. Charlie sets out to do the deed unsure whether he can see it through.
This is an incredibly bloody film which on the whole works well but is let down by some performances. It is superbly directed by John Hillcoat who together with writer Nick Cave have created a vision of true menace and lawlessness. The cinematography is superb too and with many beautiful panoramic scenescapes of the Australian outback.
In terms of performances, Danny Huston is great as the ruthless brother and Guy Pearce equips himself well as the most moral of the brothers. You genuinely feel the strain of the burden he is under. It is the two major English actors that let this down (no disrespect to Emily Watson playing Stanley's wife who is also a major English actor but does well here).
The two are incredibly contrasting performances. Ray Winstone is so understated he may has well have not turned up at all. I personally am getting a little tired of him phoning in performances. Where are the glory days of Sexy Beast or Nil By Mouth? This certainly is not one of his finest and he comes across as wooden and characterless.
Secondly, and almost more disappointingly, is John Hurt as the menacing bounty hunter Charlie encounters along his journey. His performance is one of the most hammy I've seen in a long time. Utterly over-the-top and unbelieveable. One has come to expect greatness from Hurt and is only disappointing by his growling thesp here.
Shame that these 2 let down what could have been a marvellous film.
The Proposition is among the few Western films titled as "revisionist Westerns" - that is, films that reject the typical conventions of the Western, with cardboard characters and plenty of gunfights. Whilst this is still a violent film, it's also gritty, psychologically complex, and concerned with more saucy issues like family and loyalty. The film is written by musician Nick Cave, who also provided the stellar, brooding soundtrack for the film.
Violent outlaw Charlie Burns is captured one day with his younger, mentally retarded outlaw brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) whilst performing a "routine" robbery, and is told by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) that he will execute them. However, he will let them both go free on one condition - they kill Burns' older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), who has become something of a legend as a vicious and immoral psychopath. Burns initially agrees, but of course, the adventure becomes more of a moral parable than anything else, and the Burns brothers are all put to the test.
My only real complaint about the film is the passing - it is rather slow moving and proceeds at a confidently leisurely pace. For a film that's only 104 minutes, this is quite surprising, and I do wish that about 10-15 minutes had been snipped off of the running time to give it a lean and brisk feel. Instead, it feels strangely bloated rather than meditative.
Although not entirely well-paced, nor as engrossing as it could have been, The Proposition is a beautifully shot film with sublime atmosphere, thanks in large part to Nick Cave's fantastic soundtrack. A satisfying climax and pleasing performances all-around compensate for the film's dry delivery.
On similar western themes to the excellent Open Range with Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, The Proposition is essentially a copy of the above, but reassembled piece by piece in 19th Century outback colonial Australia. But dont let that put you of as this isnt that bad. But if you havent seen Open Range then I would watch that first as this is the inferior version.
Clint Eastwoods Unforgiven set the benchmark for this retro gritty western genre and for me Open Range raised the bar. Where the Proposition is interesting is with the baron outback settings and Nick Caves excellent screenplay and soundtrack. Australias badlands have that enigmatic and spooky back drop to the mystical panorama and any director worth his salt will capitalize on it, John Hillcoat bringing a little bit of that Walkabout didgeridoo thing to this.
The Proposition is a brutal and raw film guys so kids should be kept well clear. The prosaic rivalry between the main protagonists-a sociopathic misanthrope and law abiding empirical bigot-lead to some gruesome and bloodthirsty scenes, almost visceral at times. Saying that the video game on their console is probably far worse.
Noah Taylor ... Brian O'Leary
Jeremy Madrona ... Asian Prostitute
Jae Mamuyac ... Asian Prostitute
Guy Pearce ... Charlie Burns
Mick Roughan ... Mad Jack Bradshaw
Shane Watt ... John Gordon
Ray Winstone ... Captain Stanley
Robert Morgan ... Sergeant Lawrence
David Gulpilil ... Jacko
Bryan Probets ... Officer Dunn
Oliver Ackland ... Patrick Hopkins
Danny Huston ... Arthur Burns
David Vallon ... Tom Cox
Daniel Parker ... Henry Clar
Captain Stanley (Ray Winston) is the Empires representative in a Godforsaken hole in the 19th century arid Australian outback, trying to civlize the land for the new settlers on behalf of Her Majesty. The Burns Gang are the most feared bandits in the region, Irish convicts led by the psychopathic Arthur Burns (Danny Hutson), the later holed up in the unknown territories where even the Aboriginals dont go. Stanley has been ordered by his boss to bring him and the gang in for the brutal murder of a local family, slayed in their beds, the unborn child cut from the belly.
After capturing Arthurs younger gang member brothers in Mikey (Richard Wilson) and Charlie (Guy Pearce) in a shoot out, Stanley uses the kid brother as bait to lure Arthur out of the sticks. The only way is for Charlie to betray his older brother and bring him back dead or alive. If Charlie does it in the nine days before Christmas then the kid wont swing and the remaining Burns clan can go on their way-or at least that is the proposition on offer.
Stanley is a loyal but troubled policeman and determined to bring down the gang by what ever means, his prim and proper wife Martha (Emily Watson) his rock in the near lawless frontier town.
As Charlie nears the sacred lands its not only the rebellious aborigines he has to worry about, his brother sensing his treachery. But will young Mikey be alive if they return and so will the proposition still stand...
-The thinking on it-
With its earthy realism and baron landscapes this film is visually arresting. Its also very sadistic at times and its that side of it that makes it different from your traditional black and white cowboy flicks. I quite like movies that try to be different and creative and although the narrative is basic, Nick Caves scripting and soundtrack give it real atmosphere and menace. Like I said its not as good as Open Range and the fact I have seen that version first knocks a star off this one.
The performances are all very fine; although Winstons slight overacting and grimaces as the over stressed copper makes him look like Mel Smith fretting over a sketch at times. Guy Pearce does these roles in his sleep and Emily Watson just doesnt seem to get any older, or commercial in her film choices. She seems to love these roles as the demure lady of the house.
The cast and locations come together nicely and again Australian film delivers its unique brand of cinema, especially exotic with that Nick Cave soundtrack. But the stealer for me is its just so darn realistic, something you cant say of Hollywood these days.
The film starts straight off and we meet Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey Burns (Richard Wilson) who are under fire. People who are fighting back are getting shot down. Charlie and Mike are soon captured where they meet Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). He informs them they will hang for the murder and rape they committed at the Hopkins house. But he is willing to grant them a pardon as long as Charlie finds their oldest brother Arthur (Danny Huston) and kills him, if he doesn't by Christmas Day (9 Days) then youngest brother Mikey will hang.
The Proposition is set in the Australian outback; it shows life as hard and depressing for the people who have emigrated there. The pace of the film moves quite slowly, which gives you the feeling of the pressure of the heat and atmosphere of the desert. The dialogue is gritty and harsh and the cast are all dirty and rough looking, with flies buzzing round peoples faces in many scenes - even in the nicer places such as Captain Stanley's home.
The film is very violent and features a number of twists and turns making you wonder whether Charlie will actually kill his brother or not, or will they come to an alternative arrangement. You also find yourself sympathising with characters one minute and hating them the next. A perfect example is Captain Stanley who seems very evil at first put as his word crumbles apart and he starts losing his authority and doubting if releasing Charlie was a good idea then you begin to feel very sorry for him, especially when his wife Martha (Emily Watson) sides with Eden Fletcher (David Wenham) and the towns folk over the flogging of Mikey
It also has a very interesting story in the rape and murder of the Hopkins as the film keeps you guessing whether Charlie and Mikey actually had anything to do with it. I won't spoil what actually did happen though!
The outfits featured in the film where fantastic and looked very authentic. It features a mixture of rags with old English clothes (despite the heat), which showed how the people who moved (or where forced) to Australia struggled to adapt to the country and the natives who already lived there.
The film was written by Nick Cave, who also did the soundtrack as well. The music featured in the film is quite touching from the opening credits which features a child singing, to various points in the film helping to add bits of tension and sadness.
It was directed by John Hillcoat, who came up with the idea for having a story based on the harsh times of settlers who moved into the Australian outback. He holds nothing back and there is nothing pleasant or glamorous put across in this film about Australia.
Guy Pearce plays the part of Charlie well, he is quite and moody looking, leaving other actors in the film to do the majority of the talking, you find yourself learning more about the character through watching his actions. For example when he first visits the burial site of Hopkins family, the look of sadness, maybe even regret makes you wonder if he had anything to do with it or is he looking sad for the torture and rape his older brother put them through before killing them.
Ray Winstone gives an amazing performance in the film, you start off not liking the man as he talks to Charlie and gives him 'The Proposition' and then you meet his wife and how protective he is of her to try to keep her covered from the harsh, cruel world they've moved to, then you feel more sorry for him as he grows paranoid. By the end of the film you find yourself wishing that Captain Stanley could get his wish to return back to England.
Danny Huston gives a strange performance; to a quite unusual character, one who is strong on family, yet would kill a person in the blink of an eye, he's psychotic yet you would trust him to back you up.
Emily Watson plays the innocent, sensitive wife part well. There are moments in the film where she knows Captain Stanley is keeping things from her and gets quite upset as the pregnant woman who lived at the Hopkins place was a friend of hers. You also see her referring to the garden (which is made up like an English garden - despite being surrounded by the outback). You then see a more uncaring side as she joins Eden Fletcher in getting Mikey flogged only to see the consequences and pass out!
David Wenham plays the most dislikeable character in the whole film, being Captain Stanley's superior; his thirst for blood of the three Burns brothers rather than justice makes him dislikeable. You want Charlie to come back and kill him too. He uses the same English accent that he used in Van Helsing which made me know what film I'd seen him in before instantly.
Finally Richard Wilson deserves credit as although his role was much smaller than the others being kept in prison, I felt he conveyed the simpleness and naivety of the youngest Burns brother, who the only thing he did wrong was being born into the wrong family. His emotions to being flogged in one scene, makes the whole film for me as you hear him giving blood curdling screams as the towns folk watch on wanting blood, only for them to gradually walk off as the punishment becomes too much.
The Film is split and its extras are split across two discs.
Audio Commentary by Director John Hillcoat and Writer Nick Cave
Also film notes by Billy Chainsaw
The Making of the Proposition - on the back cover it says it's 118 minutes which is obviously a mistake as that would make this longer than the whole film. This is an interesting documentary going from the start of the idea of having a film based in the outback. It has interviews with the cast and crew (even having an aboriginal adviser - so not to offend the aborigines of the country or to mess up any of the land while filming). This is quite interesting and gives you a little insight into the people who settled in Australia and the troubles they had adapting, plus you learn about the hard history of the time when people had a young life expectancy from various factors - being shot or even dieing from drinking too much in the heat! About 30 minutes in total
Meet the Cast and Crew - documentary going through members of the cast and crew
Original Theatrical Trailer
Exclusive Interviews with Guy Pearce and Danny Huston
These are two long interviews that go on for ages, fortunately there split into two separate interviews, so you can have a break from watching the other if you want.
Extras rating ***
Overall this is one of the best films I've seen this year, it's very short at 99 minutes (approx) but that takes nothing away, making it a good film to watch on a Saturday Night. Though I will add that the violence and blood in this film means it's not for the squeamish.
Film Rating *****
Language: Strong and sometimes racist.
Violence: Bloody, gunshot wounds
Sex/Nudity: Scenes of suggested rape
Based on a screenplay from Nick Cave, The Proposition is a slow, thoughtful, brutal and diligent western, that rightly mopped up numerous awards back in its native Australia. It starts when Ray Winstones Captain Stanley makes an unpopular deal with a much-wanted outlaw, Charlie Burns, played by Guy Pierce. Charlie has two brothers: an innocent younger sibling (Mikey), and a heavily wanted older one (Arthur). The Captain takes the younger one into custody on threat of hanging, giving Charlie a matter of days to bring his older brother in. Thats the core proposition that gives the film its title, yet what really makes the film is its willingness to explore the details. How do the townsfolk feel when they find out Captain Stanley has let a wanted gangster go? What will Stanleys wife do when she finds out hes willingness to play a dangerous game with an innocent young man as the stakes? And what will Charlie actually do when confronted by his deadly brother? The beauty of Caves script too is that it doesnt speed through any of this, consequently building up notable moments of tension, brutality and genuine shock. The performances throughout are strong, with Pierce and Winstone spearheading the cast with skill, yet finding tremendous support in the shape of John Hurt, Emily Watson and Danny Huston. Married up to the subtle and thoughtful direction of John Hillcoat, The Proposition is, quite simply, one of the finest films of the year, and the latest resurrection for a genre that rightly refuses to remain dormant.--Simon Brew