The Proposition John Hillcoat

Movies have become so sanitised that it’s hard to know what to do with the harsh stuff that The Proposition throws at you. The best revisionist Western that never took place in the West, it’s the kind of thing Peckinpah would have done if he were less of a macho blowhard and more of a melancholy poet. The difference between Guy Pearce’s gang murderer with pangs of conscience and Ray Winstone’s lawman with ideas is hard to mark. When the latter enlists the former, now in his custody, to find the gang’s leader and bring him to what passes for justice, the stage is set for an Aussie Outback trip full of blood and thunder. One wants to compare the film to Unforgiven, but that film was light and peppy compared to the Romantic decay of this singularly fetid ride to judgment. Where an American would mourn the Western legend that became ugly fact, this film has no qualms about shredding the British Empire’s civilised veneer to look at the raw meat underneath. But strangely, the film never feels gratuitous or sadistic; it’s merely disappointed in the brutal nature of human history and grieves the fall from innocence into rougher hands. This is the first film in nearly two decades by the team of director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave (yes, that Nick Cave) and one hopes it doesn’t take two more for them to do a follow-up. Extras include an excellent feature commentary by Hillcoat and Cave that explains the whys and wherefores of the production (and the ungodly heat that forced them to shoot at night), a similarly fine five-part "making of” documentary and eight deleted scenes. (Maple)