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Quigley Down Under(1990)
Arriving in Australia with nothing more than a saddle and his prized six-foot Sharps rifle, sharpshooter Matthew Quigley thinks he's been hired to kill off wild dogs. But when he realizes,instead, that his mission is murder - to "eliminate" the Aborigines from a wealthy cattle baron's land - Quigley refuses and quickly turns from hunter to hunted. Forced to wage a savage war against his former employer, Quigley proves that no one gets the best of a steely-eyed gunfighter - no one, that is, except the mysterious beauty who rides by his side.
For more about Quigley Down Under and the Quigley Down Under Blu-ray release, see Quigley Down Under Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman, Chris Haywood, Ron Haddrick, Tony Bonner
Director: Simon Wincer
» See full cast & crew
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray Review
"Don’t worry, on a new job it’s quite common for things not to go well at first."
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 8, 2011
Tom Selleck really should have been a major movie star. He had the looks, the presence, the voice, and his acting chops, while perhaps not Olivieresque, are at least respectable, making up in affability what they perhaps lack in depth. Like any number of major male superstars before him, Selleck hit it big in television and then tried to parlay that success into a big screen career, a career which while dotted with occasional successes (Three Men and a Baby) never really shot into the stratosphere. It's all the more odd when one revisits some of his relatively early film work to find films that are certainly a lot better than much of the tripe being churned out nowadays, films which in their day were kind of grudgingly admired but never really acclaimed. Such a piece is Quigley Down Under, an often extremely effective neo-Western set in Australia that does everything Baz Luhrmann's Australia set out to do without any of Luhrmann's pretensions, grandiosity or manic-depressive directorial flourishes. Quigley Down Under manages to perfectly capture Australia in all its wildness and even savagery, giving us an apt history lesson in the process, without ever being didactic or dull. Selleck's Matthew Quigley, a wild west sharpshooter who comes to Australia at the behest of ranch owner Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman), who is hoping Quigley can rid him of his "aboriginal problem." Along the way Quigley interacts with a rather eclectic array of both Aussies and expats, including a perhaps insane Texas woman the locals have charmingly nicknamed Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo).
As Tom Selleck hints at in the vintage featurette included on this Blu-ray, Quigley Down Under had been kicking around Hollywood for quite some time before it actually got made, and at different points had had Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen attached to it as its putative star. In fact the screenplay was probably old enough that it very well could have predated or at least been simultaneous with at least one of the two most famous films featuring Australia and Aborigines, Peter Weir's The Last Wave (the other film being Nicolas Roeg's haunting Walkabout). Quigley Down Under of course posits the whole dialectic between Aussies and the native islanders in a late 19th century timeframe, when tribal passions (and by tribe I mean Caucasian Australians) ran perhaps even deeper than they do today.
The film turns out to be a rather surprising screed for understanding and tolerance a la Dances With Wolves, when Quigley discovers that Marston wants him to kill Aborigines and rather impolitely declines. That angers Marston, who has Quigley beaten to within an inch of his life and then dumps him and Crazy Cora in the sweltering outback, supposedly to die. Of course Quigley and Cora soon come under the care of Aborigines and become somewhat enamored of their tribal ways. This is the one hackneyed element of Quigley Down Under and may in fact cause more jaded viewers to roll their eyes, but it at least sets the film up for the viscerally exciting final third act, as Marston becomes increasingly desperate to do away with Quigley once and for all.
Director Simon Wincer had just created something of a major Western stir with his epic miniseries Lonesome Dove when he was chosen to helm Quigley Down Under, and he provides the film with a near perfect epic visual sweep which helps to admirably capture the time and place of Australia in its still relatively savage adolescence. Wincer gets a solid performance from Selleck, who is nonetheless perhaps a bit too "modern" in stance and idiolect for the part. San Giacomo is appealing but perhaps not quite heartbreaking enough in her role of Crazy Cora, especially in the big "confession" scene, which is bizarrely written by scenarist John Hill, where we finally find out exactly why she's bonkers. The scenery chewing award certainly belongs securely to Alan Rickman, who actually is a lot of fun in the film, bringing equal parts menace and a sort of "gee, whiz" mentality to Marston, a man who is beguiled by stories of the American West and fancies himself a gunslinger of sorts.
Quigley Down Under may not ever attain true greatness, but it has pace and a good deal of panache, and it handles the sociopolitical aspects not just of the Aborigines and their plight but also the humorous interplay between Australians, British and Americans quite well. In fact it's rather instructive to compare Quigley with Luhrmann's overblown Australia, a film which dances around many of the same sorts of characters and issues and additionally had everything money could buy, but which generates roughly one third of the heat and excitement that Quigley does.
There's rarely a satisfying reason that some people shoot to superstardom while others maintain a fantastic level of success while never quite getting to that inner circle of the big screen elite. While I doubt Selleck really has any major complaints about his career, looking back now on efforts like Quigley Down Under from the vantage point of some two decades of often far inferior films, it's hard not to feel that his television superstardom may have doomed him from the get-go with hoity toity film critics who weren't about to give a fair shake to anything yet another upstart t.v. detective was starring in. That's especially shameful with a film like Quigley Down Under. It may not be a masterpiece, but it's solidly crafted, has interesting, well drawn characters, and its heart is in the right place. Personally, I'll take something like Quigley over the high-falutin' pretensions of Australia any day of the week.
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fox's slew of recent releases of MGM catalog titles have been mostly exemplary, and Quigley Down Under is yet another winner, with an appealing AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.34:1. This is an often ruggedly gorgeous looking film, and the palette here is filled with sun drenched burnt umbers, siennas and rusts, all of which are splendidly saturated and brilliantly reproduced. Fine detail is often exceptional, offering everything from the slimy mucus emanating from an oxen's nostril to the bristly stubble on Selleck's face. Depth of field and dimensionality are both exceptional throughout the film. Colors ring true here and grain is apparent and natural looking without ever being overwhelming or leading to digital noise. There were a couple of minor moments of aliasing, mostly to do with parallel lines on things like the metal roof on one of Marston's outbuildings, but otherwise this is yet another very solid catalog release that proves that these things can be done well with a little time and effort.
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Quigley Down Under probably could have benefited from a repurposed surround sound mix, considering its vast open spaces and sequences filled with ambient environmental effects and (of course) gunfire, but the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that is provided here does quite well within its obviously narrow confines. Dialogue is cleanly presented, and there's really excellent dynamic range throughout the film which captures everything from that selfsame gunfire, to the stark sounds of the Australian outback to the haunting drone like chants of the Aborigines. Basil Poledouris' rip roaring score (which just barely quotes Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite) sounds beautiful and elevates the film substantially. The overall mix between dialogue, effects and score is also very artfully represented by the DTS track.
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Quigley Down Under makes no bones about being an old fashioned entertainment, but it does so within a sort of neo-modern revisionist framework where we're also exposed to some rethinking about native peoples and the interplay between the supposedly "advanced" white man and more atavistic cultures. It's nothing new, but it's to Quigley's credit that the unusual location helps to offset any passing feeling of déjà vu. With excellent performances by Selleck, San Giacomo and especially Rickman (who's as fun as ever), Quigley Down Under is certainly a lot better than it was given credit for being upon its initial theatrical release. Fox has given us yet another excellent Blu-ray upgrade, and at this price point, it's hard not to say Quigley Down Under is Highly recommended.
Quigley Down Under: Other Editions
Quigley Down Under Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Quigley Down Under and The Big Country Blu-rays - August 22, 2011
This November, MGM Home Entertainment will expand its Blu-ray release schedule for both Quigley Down Under and The Big Country. Quigley Down Under tells the story of an enigmatic sharpshooter (Tom Selleck, Magnum, P.I.) adrift in Australia, while The Big Country ...
• Two More Westerns on Blu-ray Coming Up, Only at Walmart - March 22, 2011
According to information from Walmart, the retail giant will exclusively offer two movies from the western genre (one of them from the Aussie variety) on Blu-ray on May 24, both from the MGM/UA library: The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958), starring Gregory Peck, ...
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