Quigley Down Under (1990)

There's a price on his head. A girl on his mind. And a twinkle in his eye.

American Matt Quigley answers Australian land baron Elliott Marston's ad for a sharpshooter to kill the dingoes on his property. But when Quigley finds out that Marston's real target is the aborigines, Quigley hits the road. Now, even American expatriate Crazy Cora can't keep Quigley safe in his cat-and-mouse game with the homicidal Marston.

Matthew Quigley: Sharps Shooter.
Quigley Down Under is directed by Simon Wincer and written by John Hill. It stars Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo and Alan Rickman. Music is by Basil Poledouris and cinematography by David Eggby. Plot sees Selleck as Matthew Quigley, a Wyoming cowboy and sharp shooting rifleman who answers an advertisement to go to Western Australia as a hired sharp shooter. If proving his worth, he's to work for Elliot Marston (Rickman), but when Marston outlines his sick reasons for hiring Quigley, the pair quickly become on a collision course that can only see one of them survive.
It was written in the 1970s by John Hill, where it was hoped that Steve McQueen would take on the lead role, but with McQueen falling ill and Clint Eastwood allegedly passed over, the project sat on ice until 1990. In came Selleck and the film finally got made. Just about making back its money at the box office, Wincer's movie deserved far better than that. It's competition in the Western stakes in 1990 were Costner's beautiful and elegiac Dances With Wolves and the Brat Pack bravado of Young Guns II, both vastly different films from each other, and both considerably different from Quigley Down Under. If those two films contributed to the average response to the Selleck picture? I'm not completely sure, but viewing it now one tends to think that the 1990 audience just wasn't ready for such a delightfully old fashioned Oater, one that features a straight and simple narrative to tell its tale.
It's safe to say that anyone after deep psychological aspects will not get that here. There's some serious themes in the story, such as the horrid genocide towards Aborigines, while the deft kicks at the British are fair enough even to a British guy such as myself. But in the main this is old time Western fare, where it may be as predictable as a horse doing toilet where it pleases, but it's fun, brisk, gorgeous to look at, and there's never a dull moment within. Wincer (Lonesome Dove) directs with assuredness and the trio of cast leads are great value. Selleck cuts an impressive figure of a tough guy high on principals and with a comedy glint in his eye, Rickman is suitably attired all in black and bang on form for sneering, cocksure, villainy, while Giacomo is pretty and works neatly alongside Selleck as a spunky, lively, sidekick type who carries along some sad emotional baggage.
There appears to be quite some division amongst fans and critics as regards Poledouris' (Conan the Barbarian) score. Whilst I agree that it does at time veer close to being too boisterous, it sits well within the type of film the makers are going for. It carries with it a sort of Magnificent Seven flavouring, imbuing the story with a rightful sense of adventure. It also flows freely with Eggby's classical capturing of the Western Australian locations. Eggby (Mad Max/The Man From Snowy River) utilises the scope format on offer to deliver some truly gorgeous back drops, while the brown and yellow hues are most appealing to the eyes. Costuming and sets are spot on for period detail, and Quigley's Sharps Rifle is an absolute beast of a weapon. The simple structure and telegraphed nature of the story stops it from being a true classic of the genre. But it's got so much going for it and is high on rewatchability factor, to make Quigley Down Under (not the best of titles either) essential viewing for fans of old fashioned Westerns. 8.5/10

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Pathé Entertainment by Simon Wincer, John Hill.
Stars: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman, Chris Haywood.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance, Western

Keywords: australian chase

10/19/1990

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