The New Yorker: The Critics: The Current Cinema: “
“The Proposition” and “Army of Shadows.”
by ANTHONY LANE
Issue of 2006-05-08
The new Australian movie “The Proposition” begins with photographs from the late nineteenth century. Here are the stubborn settlers, in stiff collars or lace dresses, bent on transplanting British or Irish values to an unyielding soil. Here, too, are the indigenous people, their expressions harder to read, caught between defiance and resignation. Next come the charred remains of a homestead, with the words “Scene of the Hopkins Outrage” inked below in white; and there, plucked fresh from the past, is our story.
The Hopkins family, including a pregnant mother, has been slaughtered by the Burns gang, of abominable repute. The gang comprises three brothers: Mikey (Richard Wilson), hardly more than a kid; Charlie (Guy Pearce); and Arthur (Danny Huston), the presiding monster. The chief of police, Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone), has arrested the first two, but not the one he wants. By way of a deal, he offers not to hang the whimpering Mikey if Charlie, who adores the boy, can find Arthur and kill him before Christmas Day.
That last detail confirms one’s sense that “The Proposition,” in its morality as well as in its geograp”