Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Forty Six: Quigley Down Under
I’ve avoided this film for a while. Why? Something about the title, the presentation, and a few clips I’d seen just gave off the impression of a cheesy Western. There’s a VHS copy here where I’m staying and I figured I’d give it a go.
To my delight, this is a good film, one that balances fun with drama fairly well. The first fifteen minutes or so feel so light and hint to that cheesiness I was worried about but from then on, the movie gets a grip and doesn’t let go. Once the true conflict begins, Quigley and Cora’s journey presents exciting adventures, genuine moments of humor/romance, and most surprisingly, some truly disturbing images of genocide. It’s these dark sequences that give the narrative its weight and elevate the film beyond just a good guy versus bad guy tale.
All the performances are solid and carry the picture where it needs to go. Rickman is fun to watch, like a version of his Die Hard bad guy in a Western setting. What caught me off guard was seeing Ben Mendelsohn (an actor I love and who has blown up in recent years) in what must be one of his first roles! It’s too bad Laura San Giacomo didn’t continue to get lead roles like this one through the 2000s and 2010s. She’s damn good and when you think about it, the film is really her story, not Quigley’s. She’s the one who changes from beginning to end, whereas Tom’s character remains completely the same.
The two issues I have with this film: 1. Quigley seems to have an unending supply of rifle rounds. It’s not clear where he gets them other than his belt and there’s no sign of him refilling the belt. He shoots a hell of a lot of people and rarely misses (another side issue I have regarding the rifle). 2. The ending is a little too shoot em up for me. I get why they did the duel with Rickman but come on… it’s a little far fetched. What comes after with the tribesmen is far better. I wish they’d found a way to incorporate the conclusion with Rickman with the conflict between the English/Aborigines. I’ve never been a big fan of shoot em up endings, favoring the simple conclusion over the Clint Eastwood-style killing of 20 men by one man.
That being said, I’m glad I finally gave this a look. One last thought… I’m surprised no sequels were ever made. I know this wasn’t the hit they wanted it to be but Selleck ended up being such a big TV star with many Westerns in the 90s. The plot and character are a perfect fit for a series: Quigley This or That, Quigley Goes Here and There, Quigley in Space.
Seen on VHS.