Twenty-one men answered the ad for a long-range marksman to thin out dingoes for an Australian land baron. Only one applicant tendered the right resume. Matt Quigley from Montana sent the advertisement back to Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman) with “M. Quigley 900 yards” written across it — along with some strategically placed bullet holes as his logo. Even before Quigley steps off the boat onto Aussie soil, it takes only seconds to establish his character. He has no patience with bullies and bad manners. But he establishes himself with such laid-back deliberation nobody sees it coming. A big man, he wears authority like a second skin, and moves with a deceptively quiet assurance. He knows who he is and what he can do, and he does what’s necessary. But when he gets to the ranch he finds his employer considers himself a gunslinger after the order of Wild Bill Hickok and is impressed that Quigley has actually been to Dodge City. He is anxious to see a demonstration of what his hired marksman can do.
With his modified rifle that can shoot accurately at extraordinary distances, Quigley sets about to do just that. But Marston himself gives a little gunslinging demonstration of his own, proving in the process that he is nothing more than a cultured barbarian. When Quigley learns that it isn’t dingoes he’s been hired to rid the country of, but aborigines, his thoughts about his employment and his employer leave no room for doubt. But, he is, after all, just one man among many,
Left to die in the Australian outback, he discovers that Marston’s lackeys have also thrown in Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo), an erratic and delusional woman he had protected from the ranch hands, and who consistently, and irritatingly, calls him “Roy”. Here, Quigley’s resourcefulness seems to have met its match in the unfamiliar and unforgiving wild. As he and Cora plod on and on through the sweltering heat and dust, Cora keeps up a running discourse of bizarre and seemingly random statements, aimed at the mysterious Roy, When she points out to him that they should hole up during the day and travel by night, Quigley tells her he must catch up with the horses or they’re going to die.
“What’s the point of getting the horses if we die first,” Cora responds.
“Every once in a while she makes a little sense,” Quigley allows.
When Cora finally gets him to admit he’s lost, Quigley quips, “I may not know where we’re going, but there’s no use in being late.”
Eventually, Quigley finds there is a grim reason why Cora’s mind comes and goes, and it colors her actions throughout the rest of the film. Finding a place among the very aborigines he was hired to kill, but refused, the extraordinary marksman from Montana earns a name with these people of the land — Spirit Warrior. When Marston’s men come hunting people like wild game, they find out what it’s like to be the hunted. They find that death can come from a distance, unseen and unheard before it’s fatal tap.
“Quigley Down Under” is a thoughtful, action/adventure/western that has it all — gorgeous vistas; acting that lands you right in the middle of the place, time, and circumstance; heart-pounding and magnificent horsemanship; dialogue sharp enough to whittle with, and not one slow minute from beginning to end. Released in 1990, it was directed by Simon Wincer, an Australian film producer and director. But imagine my surprise when I checked him out and learned that just the year before, in 1989, he directed the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove”. No wonder this gritty film — starring Tom Selleck (in his all-time best role), Laura San Giacomo, and Alan Rickman — has everything!!! And I wasn’t a big Tom Selleck fan until I saw this. I had him relegated to the ranks of Magnum P.I. Since then he’s proved he has a little more depth. As Matt Quigley he’s one of the most convincing cowboys I’ve ever seen.- tall, physically imposing, unpretentious because he knows exactly who he is and what he’s capable of..And he is a die-hard straight-shooter in more ways than one.
“Quigley Down Under” didn’t make it big at the box office. But it sure has its place in a lot of video libraries. Ironically — based on a startling rifle shot where Quigley kills two men with one bullet — real snipers now call the phenomenon “a Quigley”. I loved the characters. I loved the story. I love the movie. You ought to give it a try. Unless you just don’t like the genre, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Here’s a different review of “Quigley Down Under”, very well-written and thoroughly enjoyed. http://www.allmusic.com/album/quigley-down-under-mw0000273660
The Man from Snowy River. 1982
Another “western” movie from Australia is a very simplistic coming of age and young love story, “The Man From Snowy River”. But the plot is only the canvas for the breathtaking panorama of the land down under, and the arena for some of the most astounding feats of horsemanship ever seen on film. No. I doubt if you would see real cowboys at a flat-out gallop for extended periods of time. Horses could never sustain those punishing speeds. But as a visual experience it is beautiful, and the men who fly over mountains and meadows look like they were born to ride that wild country.
There were some extraordinary scenes in the film, including the one where Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson), rides full out over a cliff face, with just enough grade to keep the horse’s hooves mostly grounded. Burlinson is seen almost lying backward along the length of the horse as he plunges down the mountainside. It is also an amazing true story in that Burlinson became famous as the actual rider. From Wikipedia, here is Burlinson’s confirmation..
Burlinson has confirmed that it was definitely he who rode the horse over the side of the mountain for the ‘terrible descent’ during the dangerous ride — commenting that he had been asked about this numerous times, and that he became known as “The Man from Snowy River” because of his ride. Ironically, Burlinson had never ridden a horse before being cast in the film and the “terrible descent” was a one-take shot at full gallop down the cliff face. (Wikipedia, The Man from Snowy River)
It is also the film where Kirk Douglas plays one of his best roles — a dual role as the Harrison brothers who, in the past, both loved the same woman, Jessica Harrison’s mother. The beautiful Jessica (Sigrid Thornton) is now Jim Craig’s love interest.
You can’t beat this film for some awesome and majestic views of the Australian mountains and wilderness, and action sequences that will leave you breathless..Simon Wincer, producer and director for “Quigley Down Under”, was the executive producer for this film, which is based on a poem entitled “The Man from Snowy River”.