Picks and Pans Review: Quigley Down Under
There are some noteworthy things about this movie. It is a standard, old-fashioned Western transplanted to Australia, with Selleck as an 1860s American sharpshooter who gets a mail-order job working for an Aussie rancher. Selleck and San Giacomo, who has accepted a job—bunkhouse floozie, it seems—with the same rancher, are especially appealing. And the cast includes an Australian actress who has to be considered one of the biggest names in films today—20 letters—Dorothy Warnggarrknga.
Warnggarrknga is part of a socially conscious subplot in which Selleck defends aborigines who are getting in the way of the rancher, the splendid villain of Die Hard, Alan Rickman. Once Selleck finds out that Rickman wants him to sharpshoot aborigines, not dingoes, he rebels, setting up a conflict that is destined to end in a shoot-out.
When that shoot-out comes, it is extraordinarily unbelievable, even by, say, High Noon standards (watch for Rickman to be seized by a fit of unlikely generosity). But getting there is all the fun anyway.
San Giacomo never seems sure whether she's sending up her part or playing it, and her Texas accent comes and goes capriciously. Having shown the ability to be hot in sex, lies and videotape, though, she transposes to warm in this film, and she and old softy Selleck all but melt together. San Giacomo also has a touching scene with an aborigine infant she takes care of after it survives an attack by Rickman's henchmen.
The child is very blond, as aborigines often are. This may puzzle Americans, but no one in the film mentions it. maybe because director Simon Wincer is Australian.
Wincer, who directed the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, and writer John (Heart-beeps) Hill do all the clichés, from the moon over the prairie to the villain having the hero dragged by a horse to the local native population ominously lining up on ridges.
While there's lots of violence, most of it is long distance, since Selleck likes to plink his victims from 1,000 or so yards away to flaunt his Sharps rifle expertise. And the movie is pleasantly awash in its own meaninglessness. When San Giacomo asks Selleck what the strange animals are, he answers, "Kangaroos, ah reckon." It's clear we aren't in Kansas or Texas or even Monument Valley anymore, but we are still having an innocently enjoyable time. (PG-13)