Australasian Cinema > films >


Quigley (Simon Wincer, 1990) aka Quigley Down Under (US) Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman, Chris Haywood, Ron Haddrick, Tony Bonner; western; Quigley is hired to eliminate vermin, but they turn out to be indigenous people on the WA cattle station

This is a shocking film. It includes one scene in which a group of Aboriginal people are fired on and some killed for no reason other than their being where they are. In another scene, even more appalling, another group of Indigenous people are herded to a cliff edge and pushed over to their deaths. These scenes must be horrifying and deeply offensive to any Indigenous people who have the misfortune to watch the film.

Presumably these horrors are supposed to be alleviated by the fact that the main character, Quigley (Tom Selleck), is the good guy who opposes this malevolent use of force with force of his own, killing some of the perpetrators.

The film is firmly in the western genre: Selleck has all the usual appurtenances and skills of the western hero, spurs and guns and so forth. So there has to be an evil cattle (actually sheep in this case) baron as the villain (Alan Rickman) and an oppressed and relatively powerless group. But whereas in Shane this group are farmers, who have only been in the west for the same five minutes as the ranchers, here they are the original inhabitants of the country, who have been looking after it for thousands of years.

The casting doesn't help, any more than the hero's silly name. Selleck looks like he has come Down Under (the film's US title is Quigley Down Under) for a bit of fun and a holiday. Greg Kerr's (approving) article has the right phrase: "a self-important comic-book figure". The love interest, Laura San Giacomo, looks even more ditzy than she does on Just Shoot Me (her character's name here is Crazy Cora). And Alan Rickman, who is capable of playing a spot-on villain in an action/adventure film like Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988), also has a wry turn of face, which, in a film as unevenly written as this (by John Hill) occasionally looks dangerously like comedy.

I'm sorry I spent the two hours I did watching it, and advise any who reads this to avoid it. Its one redeeming feature, paradoxically, perhaps, is that it shows more frankly and graphically the kinds of horrors inflicted on Aboriginal people by settlers than any other feature film made in Australia (including The Tracker, Rolf de Heer, 2002, for example). Unfortunately, these are shown for absolutely the wrong reasons: it's the worst kind of exploitation.

Other elements in the film are more interesting. The use of the Aborigine characters, for example. Roger Ebert.

Garry Gillard | New: 19 October, 2012 | Now: 27 June, 2020