The Proposition

In the civilization-impaired Australian outback of the 1880s, a lawman (the great Ray Winstone) faces down a family of outlaws. Simple enough, right? Well, naturally, there’s a bit of a moral dilemma involved: He offers the middle brother (Guy Pearce) a chance to save the youngest (Richard Wilson) from the gallows — by personally bringing down the eldest (Danny Huston), who’s clearly the most psychopathically barbaric of the bunch. Emphatically a genre-exact revisionist Western, and usefully dissociating to American eyes and ears, The Proposition requires patience but also rewards it. Director John Hillcoat realizes Australian post-punk rocker Nick Cave’s moody, gnomic (and, in retrospect, song-like) script with surety and panache. Plus, with the finishing touches of simmering atmospherics (dust, sweat, blood, buzzing flies) and lapidary editing and sound mixing, it’s a crafty enterprise all around. But be warned: The movie’s most memorable imagery is also its most violent.