This Down Under Western starring Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone is an engrossingly visceral experience that would definitely suffice to supporters of HBO's "Deadwood."
The Proposition brutally uncovers aspects of mankind, particularly regarding forgiveness, as screenwriter Nick Cave (a vocalist for The Bad Seeds) produces something entertaining out of a dire situation.
Winstone's British policeman corners Pearce's outlaw with the alternative of his younger brother (Richard Wilson) being executed if he doesn't carry out an order. Find and kill his weird older one (Danny Huston).
Similar to the gratuitous Mean Creek, the barren Outback is lensed with a strikingly spartan quality under the lucid direction of John Hillcoat, tweaking a Mad Max apocalyptic nerve.
The austere mood is realized with unexpected transcendentalism, especially in a sequence that has a flogging interspersed with the victim's brother caught up in a song. Winstone (Sexy Beast) sharply renders his hard-boiled officer with fair-mindedness which seems unlikely given his jaded position. Emily Watson helps to let in some humanity throughout the mordant outbursts as the wife trying to make the most of a difficult relationship.
Pearce arguably turns in his best work since Memento, essaying a wistful moral ambiguity, while John Hurt (V for Vendetta) excels in a flashy cameo as a bounty hunter. Only David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) is saddled with a character of colonial prudishness.
Perhaps for more than a few the elongated finish of The Proposition is a little worse for the wear. Yet, at the same time a repeated viewing might indicate that what appears to be quite unsettling and frighteningly bleak, is oddly bracing.