A few weeks back I wrote about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road being turned into a film that will be released this Thanksgiving, and in the process of doing some research for that blog post I stumbled across a new steelbook edition DVD of The Proposition, an excellent film which led me to McCarthy in a very roundabout way.
In this gritty western, a lawman (Ray Winstone in a pre-Beowulf / The Departed / Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull role) convinces an outlaw (Guy Pearce) to hunt down and kill his older, sadistic outlaw brother in order to save his up-and-coming young outlaw brother from hanging. The morbid theme of robbing Peter to pay Paul by sacrificing one’s evil kin to grant life to one’s innocent-yet-becoming evil kin carries an appropriate amount of weight and intrigue in this Nick Cave-scribed script. Cave also provides the soundtrack and while I’ve never been one to say, “Man, I better go pick up the latest Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds record today!” kind of guy, but Cave knows the mood of his script well and composes appropriately.
The film isn’t for the weak-stomached. The killings are gory, the outlaws’ deeds are horrific, and the characters are filthy, I think Pearce’s skin is at least 85% coated in greasy dirt for the entire film. If one can get past subject matter that could make one squeamish (which, to me, should never be a reason to skip a well-made film), they’re going to find a well-crafted morality tale that never lets up on the suspense, beautiful scenery, or impressive acting. All of these positives must be what led Roger Ebert to think of this movie in terms of Cormac McCarthy.
In his review, Ebert writes, “Have you read Blood Meridian, the novel by Cormac McCarthy? This movie comes close to realizing the vision of that dread and despairing story.” This was the second mention I’d heard of McCarthy after reading Stephen King’s mention of the writer and a brief passage quotation from Blood Meridian as an example of great writing in his memoir on the craft, On Writing. It was enough to get me interested to check out both The Proposition and pick up a copy of Blood Meridian, and that’s how I found a new favorite writer.
My guess is this re-release is timed to help create buzz for the film adaptation of The Road which is directed by The Proposition director, John Hillcoat, and features The Proposition star, Guy Pearce, (his breakout role was as goody-two-shoes turned hardened cop Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential, though you may know him best as a tattooed Forgetful Jones in Memento) in a supporting role. Hillcoat is a director who knows how to create the right mood based on his source material and I for one am glad some studio executive was smart enough to hand The Road to a director who will likely do something appropriate and great.
The film came out in late 2005 and I caught the very last screening in the very last movie theater showing the film in Minnesota in the spring of 2006. I’m glad I made the effort to catch it, because it’s not an underrated film by any means (those who see it tend to enjoy it), but it sure is under-known. I hope more and more people see it, and this new, well-priced at $10 steelbook edition may help The Proposition gain a second life on DVD.
FYI, if you have the previous edition (which I had on my Amazon wishlist for nearly two years but never indulged myself in picking up) on DVD already, everything appears to be the same aside from the packaging. Steelbook DVDs are regular DVDs in a steel-lined case. The cover is etched into the steel and the package is lined with common DVD holding plastic innards. It’s neat, and some DVD nerds track these down like delicious cookies but for me, if it was no different than a regular DVD edition except for a higher price, I’m not sure I would be all that enticed. For the record, this is my first steelbook DVD and while I’m not going to go out and hunt them all down, it sure is pretty.
And if you’re still not convinced, here’s the trailer, complete with moody Nick Cave music: