Quigley Down Under Movie Review

I don't know when the law was passed, but action movies are now required to have at least half of their content full of revved up, gravity defying, John Woo influenced kung fu acrobatics. Even classic literature is veering in that direction; witness (in my case, with a pained look) the preview for The Musketeer. It's only a matter of time before Helena Bonham Carter and Ian Holm start running on treetops, bellowing lines from King Lear. Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing that, come to think of it.

With such a glut of over-choreographed action flicks, maybe that's why I was so excited to watch Quigley Down Under, the 1990 cowboy flick starring Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo. Directed by Lonesome Dove's Simon Wincer, it's a simple, very entertaining tale. Within the movie's first five minutes, there's a fistfight and everyone adheres to the laws of gravity. That's a good sign.

Selleck stars as Matthew Quigley, a Wyoming sharpshooter beckoned to Australia by land baron Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman, in full villain mode). When Quigley finds out he'll be responsible for sniping Aborigines on Marston's land, the cowboy politely declines...by throwing Marston through his dining room window. Twice.

Because Marston, like most employers, doesn't like being thrown through windows, his toughs subdue Quigley and Crazy Cora (San Giacomo), the hooker for whom Quigley becomes a protector, and leave them for dead in the middle of nowhere. Thus begins the duo's quest to get back to Marston's ranch. It will include helping and learning from the Aborigines and Quigley displaying courage and his long-range accuracy with a rifle.

Quigley Down Under may have a plot that's as predictable as a game of hopscotch, but it's buoyed by three solid performances. The biggest surprise is Selleck, whom I have found bland in other performances -- he always seems to be coasting on the fact he's good-looking and has great posture. In Quigley Down Under, his understated, assured style makes him perfect in the lead role. He's a throwback to the old Western hero who let his actions do the talking. San Giacomo finds the right pitch in her performance, as we eventually find out she's more tortured than she is crazy. Writer John Hill also provides San Giacomo and Selleck with playful back-and-forth dialogue, which they charmingly waltz through. As for Rickman, well, the man was born in black. He's without peer as a bad guy actor.

Wincer directs briskly. Despite all the traveling Quigley and Cora do, the movie never plods, as Wincer makes the movie exciting without destroying the movie's old-time feel. No fancy acrobatics or pyrotechnics are seen, just Quigley using his brains, moxie, and rifle to avoid Marston's men. The movie's breathtaking Australia setting makes everything feel that much more authentic. The only major quibble I had was in Cora and Quigley gaining understanding and trust from the Aborigines, a plot line that is almost uncomfortable in its message of unity.

However, it's a small price to pay to watch a good, ol' fashioned action movie, and one I don't mind paying.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : Stanley O'Toole,


Quigley Down Under Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 1990


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