Quigley Down Under
directed by Simon Wincer
(MGM, 1990)

Matthew Quigley is an American sharpshooter hired by an Australian cattle baron, Elliott Marston, to help him get rid of an infestation. Quigley, with his custom-made, experimental rifle and ammunition -- and an uncanny ability to hit whatever he aims at, no matter how far away -- goes to western Australia and finds out that the infestation is not of dingoes, as he had believed, but of pesky Aborigines. Quigley is repulsed by the idea of exterminating people like vermin, and turns against Marston.

The feud between the two takes several twists before culminating in a showdown. Along the way, Quigley becomes the protector and companion of an American woman deranged by guilt over accidentally killing her own child. The two get thrown into the desert, hunted by Marston's men, hunted by dingoes, rescued by Aborigines and sponsored by a nearby (as Australians measure it) town. The viewer also gets an interesting look at Aborigine culture along the way.

Tom Selleck plays Matthew Quigley. This might be Selleck's best performance. He is stoic, soft-spoken, gentlemanly and as stubbornly strong in his beliefs and values as John Wayne ever was. Laura San Giacomo gives a wonderful performance as the semi-deranged woman, Cora, who is simultaneously fleeing her past and unable to escape it. This is probably her best acting performance as well.

Alan Rickman (Severus Snape of the Harry Potter films) is exquisitely evil and, at the same time, almost pathetic, as the snide, sneering and domineering land/cattle baron who idolizes and idealizes the American West and is so insecure he cannot handle anyone disagreeing with him.

The scenery is stunning, and the cinematography reminds me of True Grit, where the struggles between men are juxtaposed against the vast, harsh and stunning beauty of the Australian Outback. The music is truly stirring, and also reminds me of True Grit. There are no slow spots in the story, although there are quieter interludes.

Warning: There is considerable violence and brutality in this film. It pulls no punches in showing the evil of Marston and the extremes that Quigley must use to oppose him. This is an excellent (very) Western for adults, with some complexity and thinking thrown in. It gives Americans a chance to look at racism from a different perspective. I'm surprised sequels were not made (e.g., Quigley in China, Quigley in Brazil), and hope that happens someday soon.

by Chris McCallister
13 May 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.