Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. 100
    A movie you cannot turn away from; it is so pitiless and uncompromising, so filled with pathos and disregarded innocence, that it is a record of those things we pray to be delivered from.
  2. 100
    Directed by John Hillcoat, this Aussie feature perfectly re-creates the charbroiled landscapes and cruel psychodrama of the old Sergio Leone westerns, with John Hurt particularly fine as a raging old mountain goat.
  3. A pitiless yet elegiac Australian Western as caked with beauty as it is with blood.
  4. In the end, this is a film about retribution and justice within unjust circumstances. Each character has a personal code of honor -- Arthur, Charlie and Capt. Stanley are all given their dignity -- and it's that code that sets the film apart.
  5. Despite perpetual rumors of its demise as a genre, the Western is alive and well in the Australian outback.
  6. It's a terrific, kinetic experience, and it's also a brilliant showcase for a crackerjack ensemble of great actors.
  7. The Proposition, a beautiful, bloody meditation on justice, family, and the trap of retribution, is in every respect an artful addition to the canon of six-shooter morality tales.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    A near-masterpiece of mood and menace, and one that deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible.
  9. By turns grisly and hallucinatory, The Proposition is one of those grand, mythic Westerns, full of wide-open spaces and dank little hellholes, detestable bad guys and virginal women, laconic lawmen and wary natives.
  10. A fascinating, mythological western.
  11. 80
    It's the kind of movie we don't often encounter these days, and actually never did: A dramatically dense and morally complicated work, it's also a highly pictorial wide-screen entertainment with a dynamite cast, channeling the legacy of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah (and maybe Joseph Conrad too).
  12. 80
    The Proposition is a very hard and harsh movie, but it also has a hypnotic, lyrical velocity. As Arthur, Huston exudes dead charisma.
  13. 80
    The climactic Christmas Day dinner of dreadful retribution is a terrifying prospect, but for anyone with a yen for our great lost genre, it's also some sort of gift.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Kuipers
    Hillcoat and Cave have here found their most fertile ground yet for allegory-rich examinations of life and death in remote, pressure-cooker environments.
  15. A visionary tale -- bleak but visionary all the same -- of a fragile civilizing impulse crushed by family loyalty and a lust for revenge in the vast Outback of the late 19th century.
  16. 75
    The Proposition leaves you shell-shocked.
  17. Despite all the violence that ensues, The Proposition is a psychological Western more in the mold of Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" than the John Ford films its stark cinematography resembles. It's about a good man, Stanley, who does bad things, and a bad man, Charlie, fighting his conscience.
  18. A spellbinding Australian Western.
  19. 75
    A sweat-slicked, near-abstract ballet of blood and sand.
  20. The veteran rock musician Nick Cave wrote the screenplay and John Hillcoat directed, both somewhat in thrall to Sam Peckinpah. The bonds of family are the centerpiece of this highly uneven, hyperviolent film.
  21. The cast of The Proposition is reason enough to see the film.
  22. 70
    The Australian director John Hillcoat makes an audacious, unsettling American feature debut with The Proposition, a revisionist western that brings its own brand of sanguinary honesty to the genre.
  23. 70
    It is one of those movies--Antonioni's "Red Desert" being the most flagrant example--that spend so much time brimming with moral and political suggestion that they almost forget to tell us what's actually going on.
  24. 67
    There is life to The Proposition, though, and brutal, pitiless life it is. If it breathed more (and if Huston had spoken less), it might have been remarkable. As it is, it's monotonous, grim and uneven.
  25. Huston's performance has a keen edge to it, as do those of the other actors, yet everyone suffers from the same problem -- they're not playing knowable characters so much as thematic points on the broad spectrum of violence.
  26. Reviewed by: Phil Hall
    A good film, but it should’ve been a great one.
  27. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    The quality of the acting, Cave's hellfire score and the heavy atmospherics of the directing merely dress up a cliché: Violence leads to more violence.
  28. Reviewed by: Ethan Alter
    The Proposition can be appreciated as a strong technical exercise, but it fails to resonate on any deeper level.
  29. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    Conversation is as meaningless as anything else in this barbarist take on "The Searchers."
  30. Despite the pictorial riches, despite the firm performances by Ray Winstone as the captain and Guy Pearce as Charlie Burns, despite the miraculous John Hurt in an eccentric role that was put in just for spice, The Proposition is hollow.
  31. 42
    The sketchily symbolic characters and flat plot just frame an atmosphere of sticky heat and Biblical reckoning.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 61 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 28
  2. Negative: 1 out of 28
  1. Jul 16, 2014
    This is alright. The cinematography is great and the acting is phenomenal. John Hillcoat is also clearly very talented as a director and it shows here. The setting is perfect for this film and provides a great backdrop for everything. In addition, the story is compelling and really has you hooked from beginning to end. It was hard to look away at times as you awaited what unfolds. The score is also marvelously composed and utilized. However, for me, the film was far too violent. The graphic violence depicted distracted from everything else. A lot of the violence was unnecessary as well, as it did not need to all be depicted. The film is very bleak and depressing, but it did not need to become coated in blood as well. A lot of the violence could have been excluded in favor or other elements that still communicate the overall message. Overall, this one could have been a lot better if it just toned down its over the top violence, which is a shame. Full Review »
  2. Mar 11, 2013
    A well-paced, violent and hard-edged western; it has the classic vengeance storyline, but it´s completely different from the other westerns out there. Very gritty script, brilliant performances, flawless cinematography. Coupled with a heart-rending score, this movie comes as close as they do to perfection. Full Review »
  3. Jan 19, 2013
    The Outback, as well as "The Proposition", is just as punishing and unforgiving as the men who roam it, and savagely entertaining. The film takes all the familiar ingredients of the Western with an Aussie spin, but unlike typical Western movies, it's dark, gritty, downbeat, and brutally violent. Set in rural Australia in the late nineteenth century, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a criminal living in the outback. He and his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), are outlaws wanted for rape and murder. Arthur is a violent and dangerous cold-blooded sociopath, much more so than his siblings. The authorities capture Charlie and Mikey after a bloody shootout, and the brothers are handed over to Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone), a British lawman sent to Australia to help bring order to the colonies. Capt. Stanley's proposition to Charlie is to gain pardon and - more importantly - save his beloved younger brother Mike from death by finding and killing Arthur within nine days in this brutal, scathing, hard-edged Western. Charlie scours the backwaters of Australia, but isn't certain if he can carry out his mission. Captain Stanley is intent on taming Australia: he has been forced to move there with his delicate wife, Martha Stanley (Emily Watson), and apparently wants to make it an appropriate place for them to live. Bringing a bit of Britain to the Outback, trying to civilize and structure the grueling landscape, attempting the impossible. Note the well kept, modern home with the white picket fence in middle of the relentless Outback, completely out of place and downright comical. A movie you cannot turn away from; it is so heartless and uncompromising, filled with disregard to innocence and civility. More blood is probably spilled in "The Proposition" than any Western I've ever seen and, and director John Hillcoat's lofty goal is to make art from incredible carnage. Men are stomped to death, whipped to their last breath, speared, shot at point blank; I could go on. The strength of "The Proposition" is its relentless moral ambiguity. Characters that would be heroic in more conventional Western movies show their darker sides. It's a tough an uncompromising story, but it's a superbly written, features terrific acting on all fronts with beautiful cinematography capturing the desolate landscape where the strongest survive. Full Review »