The Proposition


The Proposition

Critics Consensus

Brutal, unflinching, and violent, but thought-provoking and with excellent performances, this Australian western is the one of the best examples of the genre to come along in recent times.



Total Count: 125


Audience Score

User Ratings: 68,915
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The Proposition Photos

Movie Info

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. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Guy Pearce
as Charlie Burns
Ray Winstone
as Captain Stanley
Danny Huston
as Arthur Burns
John Hurt
as Jellon Lamb
David Wenham
as Eden Fletcher
Emily Watson
as Martha Stanley
Noah Taylor
as Brian O'Leary
Tom Budge
as Samuel Stoat
Leah Purcell
as Queenie
Garry Waddell
as Officer Davenport
Richard Wilson
as Mike Burns
Mick Roughan
as Mad Jack Bradshaw
Tom E. Lewis
as Two Bob
Jeremy Madrona
as Asian Prostitute
Jae Mamuyac
as Asian Prostitute
Shane Watt
as John Gordon
Robert Morgan
as Sergeant Lawrence
Bryan Probets
as Officer Dunn
Oliver Ackland
as Patrick Hopkins
David Vallon
as Tom Cox
Daniel Parker
as Henry Clark
Carl Rush
as Robert Borland
Iain Gardiner
as Officer Matthews
Bogdan Koca
as Paul Broussard
Sue Dwyer
as Mrs. Broussard
Lance Medlin
as Dan O'Reilly
Boris Brkic
as Officer Halloway
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News & Interviews for The Proposition

Critic Reviews for The Proposition

All Critics (125) | Top Critics (39)

  • A beautifully shot tracker's western that brings the Fordian poles of garden and desert to bear on the bushrangers' Outback, this is also a revenge drama of substantial horror.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A visionary tale of a fragile civilizing impulse crushed by family loyalty and a lust for revenge in the vast Outback of the late 19th century.

    Jun 22, 2006
  • It doesn't offer much that hasn't already been said about lawless frontier towns, bonds between outlaws or the settling of the West.

    Jun 9, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • By the end, it all pays off exactly the way a hundred earlier Westerns did.

    Jun 9, 2006 | Rating: 2/5
  • In-your-face combativeness is The Proposition's power, and for those of you who value your westerns, the effect is not unlike that of The Wild Bunch or Unforgiven.

    Jun 9, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It's fitting that The Proposition is set Down Under, because in many ways, it's a reverse Western.

    Jun 8, 2006 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Proposition

  • Feb 12, 2014
    An unconventional Australian western with a pretty fixation for sunset landscapes, <i>The Proposition</i> is a hard-edged revival of the nearly dead western genre contemporary to its overrated American remake counterparts such as <i>3:10 to Yuma</i> (2007). Brutal in its delivery, yet sometimes contemplative in its drama, John Hillcoat takes us to the 1880s, a scenario where discrimination and violence abound in extreme quantities. Thanks to its raw atmosphere, the maliciousness of the characters blossoms out to the surface with a relentless brutality. Violence is painful to watch and the consequences of the actions of the characters, both "good" and "bad" (terms impossible to define here), are blown out of proportion, and in the end, nobody wins. In one way or another, everything is left off much worse than the way it started. Not for the faint of heart or easily offended, the film is deeper than what its publicity makes it seem for American audiences, and employs a good cinematography, touching family and marriage bonds in a subtle manner, while condemning our concepts of "human justice", a term that I have always believed that doesn't exist. 77/100 P.S. Australia did, in fact, try many times to revive the western genre and still does today. This is perhaps the most worthwhile effort, leaving our hopes deposited in Japan and South Korea for the meantime.
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 16, 2012
    "Brokeback Mountain" may have been awesome in quality sense, but I think that film pretty much solidified that it was high time to get back to the good old days of westerns, back when the men were men and the women were too, and that's where this film came in during 2005. Granted, it came out before "Brokeback Mountain", got much less attention and is Australian with a lot English performers, a few of whom are playing Irish, which definately doesn't make this film that much a your good old fashion red-blooded American type of western, but nevertheless, it's so manly that it's directed by the guy who went on to do "The Road", which was anything but slow and overly dramatic. I joke, but John Hillcoat does seem perfect to direct a western, because that man seems to be obsessed with deserts, or just dead terrains in general, so I guess it would seem that if Nick Cave did anything of mild worth in his career, it was getting tight with John Hillcoat by writing for "Ghosts... of the Civil Dead" (Seriously Nick, what is up with the "..." in the title?) so that he could get Hillcoat the film he was born to direct. Okay, in all seriousness, Nick Cave isn't too shabby of a screenwriter, and maybe he should have stuck with that, because lord knows he never could make good music to save his life, which didn't stop the critical acclaim from flowing in. Jeez, no wonder music is dead, the people paid to tell us what music is good wouldn't know good music if it came up and gave them the smack across the face that they deserve. Us film critics, however, may not always hit, but more often than not, we know what we're talking about, as this film further proves, for it is indeed a good one. However, as good as the critics say, it isn't so much (So says Yoda), and for more than a few reasons. Like oh so many, or rather, too many westerns, this film is about as dry as the desert it's set in, limping along slowly but surely while drenching the atmosphere in anything but juice, if the atmosphere is only so lucky to only be dry. Okay, it's debatable whether or not the dry atmosphere is more problematic than the overly meditative atmosphere, yet the fact of the matter is that they are both problematic, and when they're combined, then brother, hold on to your hat, because you're to be hit with a real dust storm level of dryness. The film is often a meditative one that stylishly, if not rather artistically emphasizes its atmospheric depths in a near surrealistic fashion, which is good and all, yet often drags down a film's momentum, and does just that here, as things get to be a bit too meditative, to the point of actually hazing the substance in the midst of the overbearing atmosphere, thus rendering the film often disengaging. As I said, when this meditativeness bonds with the dryness, things dry up something fast and something fierce, for although these moments in which atmosphere fall flat dead between dry and meditative are occasional, upon their arrival, the film takes damage that it finds a hard time recovering from fast enough. The film's being pulled back on its feet is an event further delayed by the few yet very much present occasions in which the film's level of intelligence dips a bit too much, whether it be through some overbearing obscenities or somewhat gratuitously intense violence (We're talking a huge hunk of head getting blown off at one point; now what possible supplementation to substance could that possibly have?). Whether it be because it's too slow or just not kicking as hard as it should, the film often slips up on sustaining intrigue, as momentum is all over the place, though rarely takes off all that phenomenally far, as long periods of this film don't really plant all that firm of a bite, and in that situation, during which your faced with such consistent faults as uneven pacing, much of which is of a slow nature, if you want your film to escape underwhelmingness, then you better have some strong compensation. Well, sure enough, for every fault, there is a strike made by the film that gives it enough blood to keep on pumping, until by the end, you're rewarded on a visceral and even cerebral level, after being consistently rewarded on an aesthetic level. Benoît Delhomme's cinematography is something to behold, boasting a haunting grit, combined with a lushness that intensifies both the soft and more striking lights that bring to life the simple yet sweepingly naturally lovely environment, while keeping the film ceaselessly attractive in its colorful brightness, until it hits its fair share of magic moments, at which point, it's nothing short of radiant. The film's lavish art direction, as well as the remarkably upstanding and immersively clever sound design, supplements both the grit and sobriety, with another major supplement to the film's tones and themes being the score work, as much as it's a touch embarassing to say, considering who's providing the music, some of which gets to be too much his own style. So yeah, in case I haven't quite made it brutally clear enough, I think that just about everything I've heard of Nick Cave's mainstream music is truly awful garbage, yet when Cave shuts up with his non-singing, stops all of his humilatingly mindless overstyle and is forced to actually put some substance into his compositions, say in the context of a film scene, it's hard to deny that he produces some decent score work, like he and Warren Ellis do with this film, providing much of the classic smooth western flare that we all know, but with a bit of a twist spawned from Cave's and Ellis' typical creepy style, heavily restrained to the point of cutting out all of the bogus overstylizing and leaving behind only the raw near-psychedelic-esque atmosphere that, when married with the aformentioned classic western musicality, creates some unique score work that fits, if not enhances the film's gritty tone like a glove (Of course, needless to say, the compositions built for Cave to provide vocals are almost always a bit, if not way too much). Of course, as I said in the opener, Nick Cave is decidedly a better screenwriter than he is a "musician", which is hardly saying a peep, especially considering that Cave doesn't even write this film all that considerably well, plaguing it with moments of overbearingness and moderate lapses in intelligence, yet more often than not, Cave's writing efforts prove generally fruitful, giving this film a distinct western coolness, yet still quite a bit of substance, from rather compelling characterization to provocative themes that both fit organically within this film and leave with much to chew upon after walking away from the film. As for John Hillcoat's directorial execution of Cave's script, as I spent nearly the whole last paragraph strongly implying, it's decidedly improvable, as Hillcoat often keeps the film either too dry for its own good or too meditative for its own good, thus rendering it a touch dull and frequently disengaging, yet when Hillcoat hits, he cuts much deeper than you'd expect, delivering on occasions of airtight tension when needed, as well as reasonably effective dramatic depth when needed, while having his moments with the mediative storytelling that really does go restrained just enough to work and draw striking intrigue that makes the film's themes all the more affecting, as well as the film's story all the more engrossing. The other talents who bring this film to life and deliver just as much as Hillcoat, yet never slip up like Hillcoat does, are the performers within this colorful cast of ceaseless star talents, none of whom go to waste and all of whom deliver on his or her (There's pretty much only one her, but, come on, it's Emily Watson) own distinct and memorable form of charisma, depth and emotional range that defines his or he... Emily Watson's character as a compelling one who helps in making the film itself as compelling as it is. The film is faulty, and there's no way around that, as the film knocks you out for every moment it pulls you in, yet the fact of the matter is that it does pull you in, quite deeply, quite often and just enough for you to stick with it through and through and come out the other end generally satisfied, with much to chew on and much to fondly reflect on. Overall, the film often disengages, if not dulls out a bit, due to near-ceaseless-seeming extended periods of bone-dryness, made worse moments of unassured over-meditativeness that creates a distance from the substance, which also goes hurt by occasions of lapses from intelligence into overbearingness, thus making the film a limp one that manages to pull itself on its feet much more often than not, catching your eye with upstanding art direction, your ears and quite a bit of resonance with immensely clever sound play and an imperfect yet generally uniquely smooth score, as well as, most importantly, your investment with Nick Cave's mostly slick, generally well-layered and rather provocatively thematic screenplay, brought to life by potent inspired moments within John Hillcoat's somewhat-miss-or-heavily-hit direction and a slew of across-the-board compelling and memorable performances within the colorful cast of star talents, thus leaving "The Proposition" to ultimately stand firm as a bumpy yet generally engaging and ultimately rewarding western. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 20, 2012
    A balanced and compact movie. Not too much information, no unnecessary dialog, no extensive character building. Good soundtrack. A friend of mine said I should see it because I said I wasn't a fan of Guy Pierce, but he was alright. I sure am itching to see him in Lawless!
    Saskia D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2012
    well made western that doesn't hide the brutal actions of its characters. Nick Cave & John Hillcoat join forces to deliver a film that is full of interesting characters. guy pearce is brilliant in the lead showcasing a man conflicted between loyalty & he's conscience. graphic but never boring this is one of the best modern western films you will come across. Unconventional, unpredictable and well filmed
    Brendan N Super Reviewer

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