It begins will a volley of gunfire. The British forces attempting to keep order in
Cave, best known for his bluesy day job fronting The Bad Seeds, makes an auspicious screenwriting debut, weaving together these two stories of men on the verge of an abyss. Charlie is a savage, who sees the possibility of salvation within his grasp. The Captain is a gentleman, who sees himself slipping into the decrepitude all around him. Neither man would have any awareness that the line between them was rubbed out long ago. Behind both of them are the actual natives of the land, the aboriginal peoples who are similarly torn between remaining true to their heritage or selling out to modernity. For a film in which few words are spoken, "The Proposition" offers much to chew on.
While Cave's words are poetic, Hillcoat concentrates on the ugliness. The film is gorgeously burnt-out and brown. As the cliche goes, the landscape is another character in the drama, as are the flies, which seem to coat every character like an extra layer of skin atop the dirt that already obscures their flesh. At times, Hillcoat may be a bit too invested in the desolation for the good of the pacing.
Pearce's face is on the poster and the "Memento" star perfectly conveys the futility of both his lifestyle and his mission, but it's Winstone's movie. Because of Pearce's charisma, Winstone is instantly positioned as the antagonist, and yet he wins unexpected sympathy for his similarly untenable position. Huston's magnetic in a villainous turn that suggests that, like his father John, his greatest acting potential may be in dark parts.
In addition to the scenario, Cave also contributes haunting music, a score that includes both songs and several eerie themes that repeat throughout. The movie plays out, in fact, very much like an extended blues sound. You may not detect the hooks immediately, but there's no mistaking the passion.