Friday, September 17, 2010

The Proposition: An Appreciation in Bad Ass Film!

Bad Ass film, on an epic scale!
 In 2005, The Proposition an Australian film directed by John Hillcoat with a script written by Nick Cave (him of the Bad Seeds) was released into theaters.  Although the film did not become a big box office smash in the US, the film has found a steady cult following on home video and is widely considered to be one of the best neo-westerns released in the 21st century.  In my personal opinion, The Proposition is not only a great western, but also a completely bad ass film that provides some much needed bad ass filmmaking that cinema today seems vitally lacking.

First, lets look at the fact that Nick Cave of the mother fucking Bad Seeds wrote the screenplay.  That's right, the man who is responsible for writing some of the most tender songs ever written (think of The Ship Song, Into My Arms and Straight to You) while never losing touch of his complete ability to rock (think The Mercy Seat, The Carney, Red Right Hand) wrote the screenplay.   This comes as no surprise if you are familiar with Cave's music because the plot feels like a Nick Cave song.

The story goes as follows: Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is an outlaw in the Australian Outback circa late 1800s.  After he and his younger brother Mikey are captured by the law, he is given a "Proposition" by law enforcer Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone): In order for Mikey to not be executed, Charlie has to find his psychotic older brother Arthur, (Danny Huston) who has murdered a local family, and kill him.  While Charlie goes off in search of his brother, Stanley is presented with all sorts of challenges in order to civilize the Outback, which is not only limited to rounding up murderous outlaws, but also includes aboriginal rebellions, a meddealing Governor, and a displanted wife from England (Emily Watson).

This theme of attempting to civilize a land is very prominent.  As the film goes on, Stanley begins to wonder whether or not he can keep order in a land that is rooted in chaos.  This predicament gradually takes its toll on Stanley to the point where he is constantly suffering migraines and feels completely fatigued.  Winstone displays this anguish perfectly as he alternates between acquiescing to the forces of the Outback and attempting to create a piece of civilization in an uncivilized part of the world (notice the fact that the Stanley's home looks as though they are trying to recreate an English garden.)

Another prominent theme of the film is choice.  What choice would you make if when you were in Charlie's shoes?  Would you attempt to kill your older brother to save your younger brother's life, or would you let your older brother live because you love him.  Unfortunately for Charlie, he has to make that choice, whether he wants to make it or not. 

In closing, The Proposition is a great film that exemplifies the themes of civilizing an uncivilized land, brotherly bonds, and the ties that bind.  Although the film may appear to be old fashioned, it is the old fashioned-ness that helps make The Proposition a new classic of the new millennium (plus let's just face it, any movie that Nick Cave is involved in is bound to be at least a seven on the bad ass scale.)

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