There have been more than a dozen Australian westerns and they always seem to have a central theme. The only difference with this film is that it's nastier, unapologetic, and definitely dirtier. No, not that kind of dirtier. The film is filthy and covered with grit and grime.
The dirt in this film seems to have a character of its own. You have some people who are dirty and others who are clean. There is a difference between these people and there is one who rides the rails.
So what is it about?
The film finds a desperate Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), who is at his wits end and is pressured to bring down a vicious gang of rapists and murderers known as the Burns Gang. The gang is headed by three brothers: Arthur (Danny Huston), Charlie (Guy Pearce), and Mike (Richard Wilson).
Stanley lucks out and is able to capture Charlie and Mike. He figures that to bring down the gang he must hold Mike ransom and offer Charlie a deal. Kill your older brother and your younger brother will live. Charlie agrees and takes off while Stanley keeps Mike.
That proposition doesn't go very well for either party and that pact's curse is bound to cripple both men.
The Proposition is so obsessed with its mood and authentic look that it forgets that people want to care about characters. You have interesting and rugged performances from all the actors involved, but you never care about Pearce or anything on that side of the plot. You have a flirting acceptance of Winstone and sympathize with his plight but he isn't approachable even with adding Emily Watson as his wife.
I was bored to tears with most of this film and got really tired of the atmosphere and mood about halfway through. It's a hard movie to like even if you peel back all the layers of filth. (2.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.