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Lyrical Aussie Western – THE PROPOSITION

THE PROPOSITION is a grimy look at the Outback, courtesy of Nick Cave and friends.

Just when you thought Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven would be the Western’s final ride into the sunset, a pair of Aussies refuse to let the genre go down quietly; director John Hillcoat and musician-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave, who’ve conspired to deliver the next great Western revival, 2005’s The Proposition. Harsh in tone yet poetically delivered, this film shows us a side of the Outback seldom seen. The yarn goes as follows: After being captured by the law, Charlie Burns, played by Guy Pearce, is asked to bring his ruthless older brother Arthur to justice. If he fails to do so within a few weeks his younger brother, also captured by the authorities, will be killed. Charlie agrees, and rides off into the wild frontier to hunt his brother down. The Outback itself is a central character in the film – it feels like a constant 100 degrees with no shade in sight, a wasteland without remorse, whose dirt, grime, and quite often insect life assaults the actors incessantly. Nobody looks happy in this movie, and all save the locals are in way out of their depths against the cruelty of the landscape. It’s no surprise that Hillcoat also directed 2009’s The Road – landscapes consumed by pain seem to be his bag. Nick Cave’s first solo attempt at a screenplay (he co-wrote 1988’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead) proves to be an altogether worthy affair, his poetry on full display throughout. Another notable standout is veteran actor John Hurt, who plays a brilliant bounty hunter out to capture Arthur – who embodies the pain of the countryside and the way it destroys a man. Fans of the Western have cause to rejoice, and for those of you with an aversion toward Westerns, I assure you this The Proposition is one journey worth taking by all lovers of good cinema.

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