Quigley Down Under (Blu-ray)
Directed by Simon Wincer
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 120 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 16.98
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Review Date: May 29, 2011
After John Wayne stopped making movies and some of the legendary directors like John Ford, Raoul Walsh, and Howard Hawks were no longer working, westerns fell out of fashion at the movies. (A similar fate befell them on television, too.) Occasionally a Bite the Bullet, Comes a Horseman, or Silverado popped up, but most filmmakers steered clear of them until Kevin Costner hit the home run with Dances With Wolves. Simon Wincer’s Quigley Down Under was a year or so ahead of its time. Had it come out after the Oscar-winning smash success of Dances With Wolves, it might have ridden the wave of revived popularity of the genre and gone on to much greater success. It certainly was deserving of more recognition. Exquisitely shot and featuring a rather clever kind of fish-out-of-water story, Quigley Down Under is quite entertaining and even memorable every now and then. It’s too long for the story it's telling, and it lets itself spend too much time with a subplot that isn’t nearly as precious as its makers want it to be. Still, in retrospect, it can stand tall with the glut of westerns that came to cinemas right after Wolves made a mint.
Imported to Australia for his sharpshooting skills, Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) quickly learns from his wealthy land baron employer Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman) why his services were needed Down Under. Marston wants him to kill off any and all Aborigines who deign to cross his rather extensive lands. Immediately incensed, Quigley twice sends his employer sailing out of the front door before he can be knocked out and dumped in the Outback with an insane prostitute (Laura San Giacomo) he has also quickly tired of. Quigley is able to kill the men dumping him in the desert and even eventually gets a horse for the two of them by killing another Marston assassin sent to wipe them out though he’s completely lost and has no idea how to find his way back to civilization, his attempts at survival not helped by Crazy Cora who constantly confuses him with her former husband Roy. Fortunately, due to word being spread of his kindnesses toward the Aborigines, the native people have his back, and as he winds his way back to settle the score with Marston, he finds others who are willing to help him rid the area of this wicked cutthroat.
The cat-and-mouse nature of John Hill’s screenplay was originally intended for Steve McQueen's laidback sense of cool back in the 1970s, but it serves the unobtrusive Tom Selleck just fine almost fifteen years later. There are a series of close encounters with the bad guys where Quigley out thinks and out maneuvers them, and all of these encounters play beautifully as helmed by director Simon Wincer who had brought much Old West flavor to the television miniseries Lonesome Dove and won an Emmy in the process. He keeps surprises coming rather consistently throughout the film, and though the subject matter is plenty serious, there is always some time for low key humor, too. Much of that is provided by Laura San Giacomo’s Crazy Cora character and her sassy relationship with Selleck’s Quigley. Truth to tell, a little of her goes a long way (an early ruckus on the dock due mainly to her character gets the film off to a rollicking start though its tone masks the rather nasty underside we’re to learn later), and her character becomes slightly more irritating rather than helpful as the film continues to run though one sees the necessity for some of her foolishness and neediness once the climax arrives. (The fact that her craziness seems to come and go is also rather too convenient.) The director also makes sure to capture the splendors of Australia’s vast prairies in many impressive panoramic shots scattered throughout the movie which give something of the impressive feel of Monument Valley that John Ford filmed so expressively all those decades before.
Tom Selleck brings his easy charm and subdued man of action manner to the big screen here in what is probably his finest film performance. He’s both endearing and admirable in his defense of the guiltless Aborigines and his restraint in dealing with Laura San Giacomo’s irksome Cora deserves further plaudits. She’s playing the part as written, of course, but as obvious as the match between the two of them is meant to be, the chemistry between them is not the strongest. As the hissable villain of the piece, Alan Rickman can play this kind of role in his sleep, but he’s as good as can be as the arrogant, would-be gunslinger, and his haughty stance which leads to his downfall is predictably written and staged but delicious to watch nonetheless. It’s old-fashioned filmmaking at its most retro.
The Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 has been delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is almost consistently excellent throughout the presentation with loads of detail in faces, fabrics, and furnishings. Color saturation is very rich, and flesh tones while sometimes on the rosy side (especially early on) usually appear nicely imparted. Black levels are only moderately well rendered, however, and there are occasional dust specks here and there but which never distract greatly from the superb picture quality. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo surround track is a worthy effort that offers rich presence to Basil Poledouris’s flavorful music score. Sound effects are pretty much relegated to the front screen channels with dialogue well recorded and placed in the center channel. Most impressive throughout the audio presentation is the presence of deep bass in the mix. The oxen carrying the wagonload of passengers early on are powerfully impactful, and a late story moment (not to be spoiled here) also uses really deep bass with terrific results.
“Rebirth of the Western” is an unfortunately titled featurette which predicts Quigley Down Under is going to bring the western back with great force. (Their prediction was a year premature.) Director Simon Wincer and actors Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo give brief interviews about their feelings concerning the movie, and extended clips tracing the movie’s entire story are shown. It runs 7 ¼ minutes in 480i.
There are two TV spots which must be viewed individually. Each runs ½ minute, and both are in 480i.
The theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs 1 ¾ minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
An entertaining western (which could have used possibly ten to fifteen minutes shaved from its running time), Quigley Down Under looks and sounds splendid on this new Blu-ray edition. Though the features are fairly skimpy, the movie makes for an entertaining romp which fans should be happy to have in this sharp-looking new edition.