Quigley Down Under (1990)

2016 #27
Simon Wincer | 120 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | Australia & USA / English | 15* / PG-13

Tom Selleck is Quigley, who has the ability to shoot things at implausibly long distances, and whose hair has the ability to stay implausibly coiffed even after days abandoned in the outback. He’s been employed by Alan Rickman, who we know is the villain because this was released in 1990. Alan Rickman has brought Quigley to Australia on the pretence that he’s to kill dingoes, but he actually wants Quigley to kill Aborigines. Quigley doesn’t take kindly to this, because he’s the hero, and so pretty much as soon as he turns up he’s left to die in the outback. The end.

No, not really! Quigley manages to acquire his gun and becomes some kind of mythical saviour of the Aborigines. (Let’s not get into the whole race politics of that, okay?)

Despite how the title sounds, it isn’t a sequel to a film called Quigley. It kinda feels like it is, though — you know, those sequels they used to do where you just send your hero off to a new place (often a different country) for essentially more of the same, but because it’s a churned-out cash-in it’s not as fine-tuned as the first film and so never quite as good? If I didn’t know better, I’d believe this was one of those.

It also has a very odd tone. Daft comedic bits rub up against brutal tragedies, like the mass slaughter of Aborigines, or the random death of innocent bystanders, or Crazy Cora’s backstory. It’s like someone wrote a very serious Western, then someone else came along and attempted to zhoosh it up so it could star Tom Selleck and The Funny Villain From Die Hard. And it has very cheesy, derivative, generic Western music, as if they felt it really needed ramming home that, yeah, it’s set in Australia, but actually it’s a Western.

I only heard about Quigley Down Under after Alan Rickman passed away, when a few blogs flagged it up as a great forgotten performance of his. He does bring some of his Die Hard / Prince of Thieves-era skills to the piece, but it’s a paler imitation of those roles. The rest of the film has things to commend it: Selleck is a decent, square-jawed, old-fashioned leading man; Laura San Giacomo finds surprising nuances in Cora, who could’ve just been crazy; leaving the dated politics aside, it’s a decent narrative. The end result is a solid, if ultimately unremarkable, Oz-set Western.

3 out of 5

* Rated 12 in cinemas in 1991, but rated 15 on video in 1991 and 2003. ^

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