Quigley Down Under
by Jef Burnham
Now available on Blu-ray from MGM Home Entertainment.
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Tom Selleck stars as professional sharpshooter Matthew Quigley in this pseudo-revisionist western set in the Australian outback. The film opens with cowboy Quigley arriving in Australia with his custom Sharps Buffalo Rifle in hand to work for rancher Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman). Quigley’s job, or so he was led to believe before setting out from Montana, would entail protecting Marston’s cattle from local dingoes. He finds, however, that Marston in fact has something very different in mind. Marston wants Quigley instead to use his unique skills to pacify the local Aboriginal population.
What’s a righteous cowboy to do in the face of such an offer? Why, punch your employer through a window and seek vigilante justice against his men on the behalf of the oppressed Aborigines, of course! And with Quigley’s custom rifle as the centerpiece of the film’s action sequences, the resulting gun fights between Quigley and Marston’s men will surely impress even the most jaded of action fans. And that surprised me, to be honest, for I assumed that the action in a western about a sharpshooter would be rather tame. But Quigley often gets in close-quarters, and when an opponent takes a shot from that monster rifle from 10-15 feet away, he goes friggin’ flying! Color me impressed, Simon Wincer (director).
At the risk of selling the film too highly here, though, let’s turn to Quigley Down Under’s shortcomings. Looking at the cover of the film, the studio obviously thinks their #1 selling point here is Tom Selleck. Unfortunately, Selleck’s portrayal of Quigley comes off as rather bland at the outset of the film, hardly the thing you’d showcase in this way. And the equally bland, conventional western score that plays almost non-stop for the first 15-20 minutes of the film doesn’t do Quigley’s apparently shallow characterization any favors either. Fortunately, the traditional score occasionally gives way to a more progressive and ominous one, which finally reveals and accentuates what is ultimately a surprisingly subtle but layered performance from Selleck. Rickman, type-cast here as a suave, domineering villain, plays the part with his usual bravado. He really brings his scenes alive and provides the film with just the oppressive sort of ever-present antagonistic force needed to maintain the conflict between Quigley and Marston who rarely share the screen. Laura San Giacomo also stars here, as Quigley’s sometimes love interest, Crazy Cora. The romance fascinated me, and ultimately I wish it had worked much better than it does. Because having a sort of hysterical schizophrenic as the hero’s love interest could be real edgy if played right… but it’s not. It’s meant, I think, to be sort of endearing somehow, but it could have been really intense. And then you see a guy take a shell from Quigley’s rifle from near point-blank range and you forget all about the film’s shortcomings.
As for the quality of the release itself, the image is bright and sharp with only the most minor of debris to speak of. It’s an overall impressive-looking release, even if a Blu-ray release of Quigley wasn’t altogether necessary. The special features on this disc include little more than the previous DVD releases of the film from MGM so far as I can tell. These features include TV spots, the theatrical trailer, and “The Rebirth of the Western,” a seven-minute documentary with incredibly cheesy narration.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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