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The Proposition

4.2 10
Director: John Hillcoat

Cast: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson


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An outlaw is goaded into taking on justice at its most brutal in this hard-edged Western set in rural Australia in the 1880s. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a criminal living in the outback. He and his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), are on the run from the law for rape and murder. Arthur is a violent and dangerous sociopath with a much


An outlaw is goaded into taking on justice at its most brutal in this hard-edged Western set in rural Australia in the 1880s. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a criminal living in the outback. He and his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), are on the run from the law for rape and murder. Arthur is a violent and dangerous sociopath with a much longer rap sheet than his siblings and a reputation for hiding out in villages so lawless the police are afraid to visit them, while Mikey is a much younger and more impressionable chap. The authorities capture Charlie and Mikey after a bloody shootout, and the brothers are handed over to Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone), a British lawman sent to Australia to help bring order to the colonies. Stanley proposes a deal to Charlie, explaining that it's Arthur he really wants, and that he's willing to spare the childlike and terrified Mikey if Charlie can find Arthur and murder him. Charlie, realizing that this is his only hope to save his simpleton younger brother (who is scheduled to be hanged on Christmas Day), agrees and sets out to find and execute his other brother, who he believes has gone too far into the world of crime. As Charlie scours the backwaters of Australia, he encounters Jellon Lamb (John Hurt), an educated yet thoroughly menacing bounty hunter. In time, Charlie finds his brother, but isn't certain if he can carry out his mission. Meanwhile, Stanley struggles to bring a European sense of civility to the rough and tumble land he now calls home, while his wife Martha (Emily Watson) becomes the focus of the lustful appetites of the men in town. The Proposition was written by rock star and novelist Nick Cave; he previously collaborated with director John Hillcoat on the film Ghosts... of the Civil Dead.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Although it takes place in the rugged Australian Outback, The Proposition greatly resembles an American western -- a bleak, nihilistic one set in an inhospitable desert peopled with heartless men, that is. The character types may be familiar, but the literate Aussie rocker Nick Cave’s biting script and John Hillcoat’s muscular direction enable the excellent cast to refine them significantly. Laden with stylistic traits that call to mind Sam Peckinpah's and Sergio Leone’s great modern westerns, The Proposition follows a rugged vigilante known as Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), who is obsessed with tracking down Arthur Burns (Danny Huston), the sadistic, poetry-spouting leader of an outlaw gang that includes his younger brothers, Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mike (Richard Wilson). Early on, the Captain captures the brooding Charlie and simple-minded Mike, offering to spare the latter’s life if Charlie will track and kill Arthur. Charlie, protective enough of his baby brother to accept the proposition, embarks for his date with destiny in the Outback, beginning a fly-infested journey that recalls Joseph Conrad’s seminal Heart of Darkness. No simple morality tale, The Proposition trains a pitiless eye on humanity at the outskirts of civilization. With scenes of truly shocking violence, and characters with no apparent redeeming values, it’s an uncompromising work that also happens to be as riveting as it is superbly crafted.
All Movie Guide
Much like another Western of singular vision, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, The Proposition starts with a bloody gun battle that's more typically seen in a third-act showdown. From this smoky carnage comes a proposition -- that if Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) can hunt down and kill his older brother Arthur (Danny Huston), a sadistic murderer, he'll save his younger brother from the gallows. The Proposition signals its dour intentions from the opening minutes, and never fails to live up to them. The film delves into the themes of screenwriter Nick Cave's harrowing body of song lyrics -- death, loneliness, and betrayal -- which play out brilliantly against this desolate Australian landscape. That he contributes a mournful yet insistent score isn't surprising, but Cave's ease with story structure, dialogue, and characterization is refreshing indeed for a rock musician. Director John Hillcoat makes terrific use of what Cave supplies. The film's violence is inescapable, but never let it be described as gratuitous. In fact, during the film's most brutal beating, Hillcoat uses minimalism as his guide, showing only the terrified reaction of a woman listening to the crashes and overturned furniture in the adjoining room. Craig Walmsley's sound design works in concert perfectly with Cave's score, and the performances drive home the sense of amoral hopelessness that permeated Australia at that time. Huston is a truly ferocious creature, a deceptively calm outlaw with a charming country lilt, who can explode into moments of nearly epileptic rage. Matching subtleties with Huston is Ray Winstone, as the lawman desperate to preserve a sense of normalcy in a lawless world in which power is a mirage. And returning to his Australian cinematic roots, Pearce is strong as a gaunt ghost of a man at the end of his tether, numb from resignation. The Proposition is one of the most exciting Australian exports in years, a dark and chilling poem that adds to the tradition of great deconstructionist Westerns.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Alchemy / Millennium
Region Code:

Special Features

Director and writer commentary; 10 behind the scenes featurettes; Photo gallery/previews; Theatrical trailer; Deleted scenes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Guy Pearce Charlie Burns
Ray Winstone Captain Stanley
Emily Watson Martha Stanley
Danny Huston Arthur Burns
John Hurt Jellon Lamb
David Wenham Eden Fletcher
Noah Taylor Brian O'Leary
David Gulpilil Jacko
Leah Purcell Queenie
Richard Wilson Mike Burns
Tom E. Lewis Two Bob
Robert Morgan Sgt. Lawrence
Oliver Ackland Patrick Hopkins

Technical Credits
John Hillcoat Director
James Atherton Executive Producer
Chris Auty Executive Producer
Nikki Barrett Casting
Kyle Barrett Casting
Bill Booth Art Director
Chris Brown Producer
Nick Cave Score Composer,Screenwriter
Gary Davy Casting
Benoit Delhomme Cinematographer
Sara Giles Executive Producer
Jon Gregory Editor
Michael Hamlyn Executive Producer
Michael Henry Executive Producer
Norman Humphrey Executive Producer
Christopher Kennedy Production Designer
Darren Mallett Asst. Director
Chiara Menage Producer
Marita Mussett Art Director
Jackie O'Sullivan Producer
Robert Jones Executive Producer
Cat Villiers Producer
Craig Walmsley Sound/Sound Designer
Warren Ellis Score Composer
Margot Wilson Costumes/Costume Designer


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The Proposition 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
steveforbertfan More than 1 year ago
This movie tried real hard to be an epic, but it fell far short.
It was violent and too disturbing (the rape scene) to be a movie that I would consider a masterpiece.
Skin More than 1 year ago
From the beautiful credits, to the violent opening sequence, to the beautifully shot finally scene involving two brothers watching the sunset, this film is absolutley, and beautifully haunting. At first, i couldnt grasp why this film hit me like a ton of bricks and then after watching it repeatidly, it's just all and all an original film. Guy Pearce plays the middle brother of three, who basically is told by Ray Winstone's character (an amazing performance as a lawman trying to protect his wife, Emma Watson, from the savagery of Australian life) that unless he kills his sadistic older brother, he'll kill his younger brother. The film goes back and forth and focuses on Guy Pearce's journey to finding his older brother and Ray Winstone's effort to hide the brutal secret of a crime committed against a friend of his wifes. The shots alone are absolutley beautiful. The thing that definetly gives the scenes their dreamy-like waves is Nick Cave's score. Nick Cave (who wrote the screenplay) composed an amazing set of songs to the sequences in the film, topping it off to an amazing acted, unpredictable at times film. Having it's fair share off bloody violence (including a "whipping" scene), amazing film all around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing!! This film is the find of the year! You can't take your eyes off the screen! Everything from the acting, to the cinematography, the score, the lyrical story...just amazing. Ray Winstone once again proves to be one of the best actors out there and Guy Pearce is simply brilliant, his performance moved me to tears. This movie stayed with me long after I left the theatre, made me reevaluate the true "civility" of human nature. Go see this movie it truely restored my faith in filmmaking this year! One of the Best of 2006.
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