QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is an entertaining movie which combines elements of the classic Western SHANE and the adult Western TRUE GRIT. Matthew Quigley is the quintessential Western hero who: talks softly, is polite to women, takes care of his animals, shoots straight, and kills only in self-defense.
However, this American cowboy is soon out of his element when he is brought to the Australian Outback of the 1860s by Elliott Marston, a rancher who wishes he had been born in the United States so that he could test his skills as a gunfighter against the legends of the Old West. Upon landing in Freemantel, Quigley comes to the rescue of a young and very confused American woman who is being commandeered by Marston’s men to serve their sexual needs at the ranch. It seems that Marston’s men take what they want, but Quigley teaches them to be more courteous to this fiery female.
In turn, she attaches herself to Quigley, and he learns that her name, Crazy Cora, is all too appropriate. In her demented state, she believes he is Roy Cobb, the husband who abandoned her. The more she calls him “Roy” the more annoyed Quigley becomes, but his annoyance is tempered by compassion for this unfortunate young woman.
Arriving at Marston’s ranch, Quigley finds out that Marston did not hire him as a cowboy to kill dingoes, but as a sharpshooter to kill aborigines. When Quigley refuses, Marston’s men beat him up, knock him out and drag him and Crazy Cora two days into the Outback to die.
Quigley recovers just in the nick of time and heads off with Cora on a journey of survival through the immense, inhospitable Outback. Lost, they almost perish, but are rescued from the jaws of death by a tribe of aborigines who sense this white man is different.
Meanwhile, when some British soldiers bring his men back dead, Marston realizes that Quigley has survived and vows vengeance. From this point forward, it’s a running battle as Marston sends his men out to kill Quigley, only to have them bested by this heroic figure as he defends Cora, the aborigines and a small town from Marston’s ruthless killers. During their travails, Cora is healed of her insanity through Quigley’s tender loving care (please note that he refuses to sleep with her). Finally, Marston and two of his men face Quigley in a classic shoot-out.
QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is a classic Western with a unique setting in the Australian Outback and a unique twist in that Quigley defends the aborigines against the greedy whites. Unfortunately, there are some innocuous references to aborigine magic and some obscenities which stand out in the otherwise clean dialogue. Furthermore, it is discouraging that most of the white men are bad guys, while the aborigines and women are more noble in the Roussouian tradition which overlooks the sinfulness of every man and woman while it romanticizes the so-called noble savage.
However, these imperfections are only minor nods at modern sensibilities, far out weighed by the classic structure of Quigley’s character and the story. In fact, as a positive, heroic role model, Quigley could have been played comfortably by John Wayne. Furthermore, the photography is beautiful; the dialogue is very pithy and often humorous; and, the characters are well drawn. The final shootout is not as dramatic as it could have been; but, nonetheless, the story is exciting and entertaining. Whether QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER can revive the Western genre is an open question, but it certainly gives it a good shot.
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12 obscenities, murder, moderate violence, and references to magic and superstition