The Proposition

Only a few days after seeing Guy Pearce play transvestite “Felicia Jollygoodfellow” in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I went to see him in a slightly different role in The Proposition. Written by Australian goth rocker Nick Cave (who also did the score), this film is a wonderfully crafted study of human nature set in a very American-Old-West-feeling Australian Outback (also the setting for the aforementioned Priscilla, just not so Old-West-y).

The premise for the film is that when a bandit and his younger bandit brother are captured by the law, he is offered a chance to save his younger brother from the noose by killing his older bandit brother. The lawman seems disgusted by the two captives, but calls the oldest brother “an abomination.” This is set on a backdrop of white/Aboriginal conflict (by conflict I mean indiscriminate killing and absolute racism).

Obviously this is not a happy movie, not that you should expect that from Nick Cave. It includes as much blood and gore and evil as you might expect from the man who brought you Murder Ballads. What makes the movie interesting is how morally ambiguous the characters are. There is so much cruelty and evil from almost everyone in this movie that it doesn’t give you much firm ground to stand on. Most movies give you a clear hero that you’re supposed to like and get behind. This movie does not give you that luxury. That’s why I love it. In a summer of remakes and sequels and sequels of remakes and sequels of movies based on amusement park rides, Nick Cave delivers something fresh, smart, thought-provoking and exciting.

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