John Hillcoat, 2005, Australia / UK (104 mins)
Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, Danny Huston
A Nick Cave scripted Western set in Australia, The Proposition sees Charlie Burns (Pearce) deciding between the hanging of his captured younger brother, or tracking down and killing his older brother Arthur (Huston), responsible for the slaughter of an entire family.
Winstone is excellent as Captain Stanley, the broken man putting the proposition forward, attempting to civilise the outback with his own brand of British colonial honour, while Watson shines as his naïve wife, her tenderness tainted by a growing thirst for retribution.
But although brutal and bloody, The Proposition never truly looks into the jaws of the beast. Arthur is set up as a psychopathic monster, yet the few psychological insights offered are a fondness for sunsets and Irish folk songs, and his belief (as Peggy Mitchell might say) that the most important thing in life is family. The villains here are cartoon rogues, and the film is overly amused at its own violent goriness. Kate Taylor