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The Proposition (3/10)

by Tony Medley

This starts out with a bang but to say it slows down substantially from there doesn’t do justice to the word “substantially.” There are lots and lots of shots of people staring off into space thinking in the style of Terrence Malick.

Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) captures Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) in a vicious gunfight and gives him a proposition: freedom for Charlie and his brother, Mike (Richard Wilson), if Charlie will kill his brother, Arthur (Danny Huston).

One of the tests of a great actor is to appear in a film and be unrecognizable. In “Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man,” (1962), there is a segment with a punch drunk boxer. I had no idea who the actor was until I read the credits and discovered it was Paul Newman. Similarly, here, Charlie runs into a semi-deranged bounty hunter, Jellon Lamb. Turns out Lamb is played by John Hurt. I didn’t recognize him. He has one of the more ludicrous death scenes in the history of film.

The movie is a strange juxtaposition of violence and laggardliness.  But for one so violent, it is surprisingly slow. Director John Hilcoat needs a lesson in pace. For one who seems to thrive on filming violence, he has concocted some of the more ridiculous death scenes ever filmed. I frankly can’t imagine why anyone would want to sit through this. If it’s not terminably slow, it’s terminably violent. Worse, people who are shot through the heart can still sit and say things to the guy who shot him like, “What are you going to do now?” as he looks off into the sunset.

I don’t know why Guy Pearce is headlined as the star, because he does not appear in that many scenes. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a Guy Pearce movie without much of Guy Pearce. “Till Human Voice Awake Us” was a captivating 2003 movie that had Pearce as the headliner, but he was only in the beginning and the end. The male star with the main role was Lindley Joyner who played Pearce’s role as a teenager in a flashback. The main male character in this film is Ray Winstone, who gives a very good performance.

Hillcoat should take some guidance from John Ford instead of modeling himself after Malick. Even though Ford made some pretty rough westerns, he always inserted some humor. There is not one iota of humor in “The Proposition.”