on July 14, 2003
This is a very satisfying western. Tom Selleck stars as Matthew Quigley, a sharpshooter of some reputation that is contracted by a ranch owner in Australia, ostensibly to keep vermin from destroying his land. It soon becomes clear, however, that the ranch owner, Elliott Marston (played wonderfully by Alan Rickman) wants Quigley to do a great deal more than knock over dingoes.
Selleck is the rightful heir to the throne of John Wayne. He projects the same strength of character that Wayne did and has the same quality that Wayne did when on camera - the viewer's eye is drawn to him regardless of who else is in the shot. He simply seems to fill the screen. His acting has always been underrated. There are few actors working that seem so natural and at ease in front of the lens (Tom Hanks comes to mind.) Also, Selleck is an experienced gun owner, and his handling of the 1874 Sharps Rifle in the film is extremely true to life and accurate all the way. He just seems in his element handling a rifle, or the Colt SAA six-guns he uses toward the end of the film.
The real surprise in the film was the performance of Laura San Giacomo. Nothing from the TV series Just Shoot Me ever gave an indication of her acting chops. Here, she gets to stretch out, and she makes the best of it. She is a very fine actress, it turns out. She plays the part of Crazy Cora, a woman who is just hanging around the ranch. When we first meet her, she is clearly crazy. Suffice to say that as the movie progresses, she becomes a romantic interest for Quigley.
There is a truly remarkable scene where, in the quiet of a camp at night, she relates the incident in her life that broke her, drover her mad. It is not an easy scene to play, and she handles it perfectly - very understated and very, very moving. It was very pleasant to see, also, a woman in a western that was not just there for pretty scenery or to play off the hero, thereby developing the male character. No. In this film, Cora is a character that has scenes all by herself, using a gun just fine. When the cave scene comes (and you will know it when it comes) watch the light flare in Giacomo's eyes as she finds her strength and fights back - truly a force to be reckoned with.
The Cora character grows and develops a great deal in the course of the film, which is no easy trick in a 90 minute movie. If you are not a Selleck fan (as I am), watch his movie for Laura San Giacomo. She is terrific.
on February 5, 2003
Like many TV actors, "Quigley"'s star Tom Selleck gave much attention, during and after his small-screen career, to attempting to break into movies. If he'd been born in 1926, instead of 1946, he would probably have gained fame, not as Thomas Magnum, but in Western films and/or TV series like this one. Quigley is the role he was born to play, and in Quigley's adventures he has made, to my mind, the best movie of his career.
This slam-bang actioner, though often labelled a "Western," actually takes place, not in the American West, but in the Crown Colony of Western Australia, probably around 1875 (there are still convicts there). Selleck plays Matthew Quigley, a soft-spoken marksman from Wyoming, who answers an advertisement by Australian rancher Marston (Alan Rickman) for "the finest long-distance marksman in the world." After three months on a sailing ship, he steps ashore at the port of Fremantle, where he promptly gets into a brawl with what turn out to be three of Marston's men, come to meet him, and is mistaken by displaced "native-born Texian" Crazy Cora Cobb (Laura San Giacomo) for her husband Roy. At Marston Water he offers a display of his skill with his primary weapon, a customized Sharps .45 buffalo gun, and impresses everyone, including Marston, who describes himself as "a student of your American West" and is a fast draw, pinpoint-accurate, and quietly proud of it. Only now does Quigley find out that he was being hired, not to kill dingoes (Australian wild dogs) as he thought, but to clear Marston's lands of the native Aboriginies. He promptly throws Marston out the French window of his own house, but is eventually overwhelmed by Marston's crew and, with Cora, taken out to the desert to die. Managing to kill the two men who fetched them there, he recovers his rifle and big Stetson, but loses the buckboard and horses. Trying to walk out, he and Cora are found by a clan of Aboriginies, who take them in, and when a group of Marston's men appears to hunt the natives down, Quigley takes up his Sharps in their defense. Eventually he eliminates Marston and all but three of his men in a sort of one-man "long hunt," climaxed by a shootout in which, though wounded and battered and admitting that he "never had much use" for handguns (he doesn't even carry one), he kills three men so fast that his shots sound like one.
Though there's a good deal of violence in this video--in fact, it will probably be too intense for kids under the age of 12 or so--none of it is gratuitous: each instance either serves to further the story in some way or is portrayed as an inevitable result of the choices and character of the person acting or being acted against. Selleck's Quigley is a '90's version of the classic John Wayne hero: soft-spoken, quietly competent, modest and unassuming (he "spent a night" in Dodge City once, and describes it as "a nice place to get some sleep"), chivalrous toward women and even a little unsure of how to react to them. (His early interactions with San Giacomo's Cora, on the Fremantle docks and in their first outback camp, add a whimsical touch to the movie's tone and should draw laughs from all watchers.) He also has an iron code of behavior, and he doesn't hesitate to learn even from the primitive Aborigines: one of the most delightful sequences finds them teaching him to use a spear-thrower and to suck water out of the sand through a bamboo--after which he repays them by conducting a class in the making and proper use of a rawhide lasso. Rickman is the kind of villain you love to hate: smooth, silky, sneering, yet acting from what seem to him to be completely valid reasons. San Giacomo may be "touched in the head," but she's also earthy, practical, and fiercely loyal to Selleck and to the orphaned Aboriginie baby they find; her story of how she came to be in Australia is touchingly delivered.
And, like most of the best movies, "Quigley" can serve as a starting point for some penetrating family discussion. Parallels will quickly be seen between the Aborigines' situation and, not only the experiences of the American Indian, but the "ethnic cleansing" through which the former Yugoslavia suffered, and which kids may have studied in school. Quigley seems not to be revengeful against Marston and his crew of 20-odd tough English and Irish until they act against the Aborigines who have been his and Cora's friends, and even then a case can be made for his killing as many of them as he can hit: afoot and outnumbered, he doesn't want them in the area and angry at him; after the second Aboriginie drive and the accidental killing of a storekeeper's wife, he is simply resolved to keep them from doing any more harm.
Though action is the movie's keynote, it is above all the story of how three people inspire one another to certain inevitable acts--in short, like all the best stories, it turns on character. And its characters will remain in the memory for a long time to come. (A side-benefit is the blood-stirring score by Basil Poledouris, which was one of the first CD's I ever purchased.) The cinematography gives a powerful sense of the size and loneliness of the Australian outback (filming was done in Alice Springs and other Australian locations), as well as of how important it is that Quigley seems far better able to adjust himself to it than Marston's men are willing to do. Director Simon Wincer, though not of American birth, has turned out a movie which, while not strictly a "real" Western, should become a classic of the genre. By my criteria, it's definitely a 10--or perhaps even a 12.
on January 29, 2003
WHEN THIS ONE CAME ALONG IN LATE 1990, WESTERN FANS WERE IN A DROUGHT. 'DANCES WITH DOGS' WAS HARDLY A RIGHTEOUS COWBOY FLICK, BUT "QUIGLEY" WAS AN EXCEPTION.
SIMON WINCER OF 'LONESOME DOVE' FAME WAS THE GENIUS BEHIND THE CAMERA AND TOM SELLECK WAS THE ONE OUT FRONT. FORGET THAT ITS SET IN AUSTRALIA. THAT IS INDEED UNIQUE BUT A WESTERN IS A WESTERN AND THIS ONE FILLS THE BILL NICELY.
THERE HAD BEEN A FEW T.V. WESTERNS AROUND THE SAME TIME BUT THEY WERE LACKLUSTER BY COMPARISON.
SELLECK, ALONG WITH SAM ELLIOTT MAY BE OUR ONLY HOPE FOR QUALITY HORSE OPERAS IN THE FUTURE. TOM SELLECK, AN AVID HUNTER AND GUN ENTHUSIAST JUST LOOKS RIGHT HOLDING A SHARPS OR ANY OTHER FIREARM FOR THAT MATTER.
IN THIS YARN HE IS MATTHEW QUIGLEY RESPONDING TO MARSTEN'S WANT AD FOR A LONG RANGE RIFLEMAN. THE BAD GUY PLAYED BELIEVABLY ENOUGH BY ALAN RICKMAN HIRES THE AMERICAN COWBOY ON THE PREMISE OF SHOOTING WILD DOGS, BUT HE ACTUALLY WANTS THE SHARPSHOOTER TO ANILATE THE NATIVE ABORINEES TO SETTLE AN OLD SCORE.
WHEN QUIGLEY LEARNS THE TRUTH HE TURNS THE TABLES AND BECOMES THE NATIVES "GHOST WARRIOR" PROTECTING THEM AND SNIPING MARSTEN'S (RICKMAN) HENCHMEN FROM WAY OUT YONDER.
THE SCORE IS GREAT WITH BIG MUSIC MUCH LIKE THE GREAT WESTERNS OF THE SIXTIES.
QUIGLEY IS FORCED TO ACCEPT A DISCARDED WOMAN (LAURA SOMETHIN ANOTHER) AS A SIDEKICK. THE WOMAN'S JUST "A BUBBLE OFF THE PLUMB, AND THATS FOR SURE AND FOR CERTIN." QUIGLEY SPOUTS, BUT THE GIRLS AILMENT IS A CHARADE AND ROMANCE FOLLOWS. THE BANTER BETWEEN THESE TWO IS HILARIOUS.
BUT THE WESTERN ACTION CARRIES THE PICTURE AND THE MOST TRUE OF COWBOY FANS WILL BE PLENTY SATISFIED BY THIS ONE.
I CANT THINK OF ANYTHING REALLY CRITICAL TO SAY ABOUT THIS FILM.
WHEN IT PREMIERED I WAS SO HUNGRY FOR A GOOD WESTERN I ATE IT UP LIKE CHILI AND CRACKERS.
on December 28, 2002
Quigley arrives in a strange place for an American cowboy, in a shipyard in Australia. He's there to check out a possible job, to shoot dingoes--or so he thinks. Unfortunatly, he is dropped into a cultural conundrum. He's seen the slaughter of native Americans, and here he is in Australia and his prospective boss wants him to kill native Australians, not dingoes. What does he do? Well, being that he is a "good" cowboy...he's soon on the run. Somewhere along the way, he rescues a semi-lucid woman who seems to be struggling her way out of a personal Hell. Then the movie slows down for awhile as he tries to escape the bad guys and deal with the woman who thinks he's someone else. More adventures ensue, with a final showdown, of course. It is a "thinking" western, that is, the cowboy has seen some very bad things in the past, and he wants to make things better, if only temporarily. It isn't all bang,bang,bang gunfire all the way, there are times for some talk around the fire as well. Some might think it is a slow movie because of that. I'd rather have some slowness and thought than simple brainless constant action and reaction. This is a good movie, don't miss!