100 films I haven’t seen: ‘The Proposition’

Last week I went to Chicago to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, a Christmas present from my wife. I’m not going to write about that experience, because the nice thing about being a semi-retired music writer is now I can just enjoy a concert and not worry about organizing my thoughts on a show. This was just for the two of us to enjoy.

I will say that it was an incredible show, and I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of that night’s set. If you want to give it a listen, it’s embedded at the end of this post.

The show did give me an idea for this movie challenge, the 2005 film “The Proposition.” Cave wrote the film, and composed the score with fellow Bad Seed Warren “Not the comic book guy” Ellis.

Film 3: “The Proposition”

My excuse for not watching it: I feel like this is my best excuse. I rented “The Proposition” from a local Blockbuster back in 2006, then promptly had a stroke. If I’m remembering right, I had my mom return it while I was in the hospital. Or maybe that didn’t happen and I ended up paying a ton of late fees. Either way, I lived, Blockbuster died and I didn’t watch “The Proposition.”

Thoughts after watching it: “The Proposition” is a bleak film. Cave is best known for dark songs, and it should be no surprise that those themes carry over into this film’s script. Set in 1880s Australia, “The Proposition” is about a captured outlaw (Guy Pearce) who is ordered by a local lawman (Ray Winstone), to find and kill his older brother (Danny Huston) or his simple-minded younger brother will be hung.

The town’s citizens aren’t crazy about the idea of half a gang of murderers and rapists going free in exchange for the head honcho dying, and Winstone’s Captain Stanley and his wife, Martha (Emma Watson), find themselves getting the cold shoulder for his deal that seems naive at best, and potentially deadly at worst.

“The Proposition” has one of the better condemnation of corporal punishment I’ve seen in a film, where Stanley, in the face of a revolt, relents to having the young prisoner whipped in public. What was supposed to be 100 lashes ends in the 30s, with the whipper wringing blood from the leather whip, while the once blood-thirsty crowd begins to turn away in disgust.

Movies it has inspired me to check out someday: Director John Hillcoat also directed “The Road,” which is on my list. I’m just waiting to read the novel first.

Cave and Hillcoat also collaborated in 2012’s “Lawless,” but my excitement for that film has always been a bit dampened by the fact that it stars Shia LaBeouf. While researching this, I discovered Cave helped write Hillcoat’s 1988 film “Ghosts… of the Civil Dead.” I’ll have to check that out sometime.

The film features a number of Aboriginal Australian actors, one of whom, Tom E. Lewis, starred in a 1978 film called “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith” that I’m curious to check out some day.

Fun fact: Hillcoat directed the video for Elvis Costello’s “Veronica,” which was what first got me interested in Costello as a 10-year-old.



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