MGM // 1990 // 121 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kevin Lee (Retired) // October 24th, 2001
There's a price on his head. A girl on his mind. And a twinkle in his eye.
In the late '80s and early '90s there were two kinds of westerns being made: the grim and gritty "nobody's nice" kind of western made famous by Clint Eastwood, and...well, okay, there was only one kind of western being made. By this time, the days of good guys in white hats and the cavalry riding to the rescue in the nick of time had long since vanished, so imagine everyone's surprise when someone actually made a good-hearted western. Quigley Down Under appeared in theaters in 1990 and featured everything a great western should: a beefy, sharpshooting, straight-talking hero; a beautiful but feisty woman at his side; a scenery-chewing villain in a black hat capable of all sorts of misdeeds; horse chases; showdowns at the crack of dawn; kangaroos; and dingoes. Huh?
Did I mention that Quigley Down Under is called "Down Under" because it takes place in Australia?
Matthew Quigley (a perfectly cast Tom Selleck, Mr. Baseball, Magnum P.I.) packs up and ventures down to Australia after answering a want ad for a long-distance sharpshooter placed by rancher Elliot Marston (a scenery-chewing Alan Rickman, Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Upon his arrival, Matthew breaks up a scuffle between a few of Marston's toadies and a somewhat deranged prostitute named Crazy Cora (a vastly energetic Laura San Giacomo, sex, lies and videotape, Just Shoot Me) who keeps calling Matthew "Roy" for reasons all her own. After a three-day journey to Marsten's ranch, Quigley gives a shooting demonstration with a modified Sharps long rifle, capable of hitting a target 1200 yards away, which is suitable for hitting dingoes as advertised in Marsten's brochures. After a healthy meal, Marsten reveals the true nature of the job: the slaughter of the Aborigines on Marsten's land. This leads to a bit of an altercation between Quigley and Marsten, after which Quigley and Cora are brought out into the desert and left to die.
With the assistance of some of the locals, they manage to survive and take it upon themselves to gain a bit of revenge on Marsten. After the set-up, Quigley Down Under hits the more familiar territory of a survival film that transforms into a revenge film, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The final showdown between Marsten and Quigley is a whole lot of fun. Naturally, I won't spoil it for you.
I freely admit that I'm a total sucker for westerns, and Quigley Down Under is a fine example of one. It's not the greatest of the genre, but it is also rather underappreciated and deserves ample attention if for no other reasons than the setting and the presence of Quigley's modified Sharps. It may be familiar territory that the movie wanders through, but, like Quigley, it's a stranger in a strange land. The cinematography is spot on and takes full advantage of the exotic locations they filmed in. I'm honestly amazed at how similar, and conversely how different, western Australia looks like the American west. If herds of kangaroos hadn't been hopping about, you could just as well imagine Dodge City as the setting.
The acting in Quigley Down Under is not perfect, but the principle actors do a fine job with their roles. Tom Selleck seems like he was born to be in a Western and maybe was simply born in the wrong era for Hollywood. It's truly a shame since he seems to have nailed down the proper dialects, and he certainly looks proper in a cowboy get-up. Laura San Giacomo had just come off two cheesecake-type roles from sex, lies and videotape and Pretty Woman to take up a physically demanding role in a western, and she does so with a profound sense of vigor. I'll admit I've long had a bit of a fondness for Ms. San Giacomo (call me!) and she does a great job playing a character who's just out-of-her-gourd nuts. This brings us to the great Alan Rickman, who maybe got a bit typecast in villainous roles but who cares? He's excellent at playing the part of the heel and is great at chewing up the scenery with a droll delivery few other actors can match.
The transfer for Quigley Down Under is commendable, and the inconsistent MGM has done a nice job presenting this film in the manner it deserves. I noticed no edge enhancement, and there was very little graininess throughout the film. Quigley Down Under is mostly set in a desert, so there's a rather bleached out feeling to the entire film, but colors that needed to stand out did so properly. The sound is still a 2.0 stereo mix, but this was not a real problem for me. Scenes where Quigley is shooting villains from half a mile off make excellent use of the sound mix (the bullets hit their targets before the gun's report is heard in the distance). MGM doesn't really offer us much in the way of extras, providing the trailers and a short but decent featurette about the movie. I'm not complaining since Quigley Down Under would appear to be in their lower tier of their pricing scheme and I'm just happy this film is available on DVD.
For once, I really don't have anything to complain about. Can you believe that? Maybe in my next review I'll have to overcompensate for my lack of cynicism here.
Quigley Down Under may not have all the bells and whistles of a special edition, but it's well worth your time and effort to see it if you enjoy westerns.
Standing at long range, I can announce that Quigley Down Under is acquitted and everyone is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2001 Kevin Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer and TV spots
* "The Rebirth of a Western" Featurette