Now what in the hell is this, you ask. A two-decades-old, B-grade Western filmed in Australia, starring a washed-up 80s TV star and sharing a director with such masterpieces as Free Willy and Operation Dumbo Drop. Why should you give this film, much less this review, a second glance? Because, dear readers, we have in this film a rare, unexpected masterpiece. None of these elements alone should have worked, but together they somehow form one of the last great jewels formed of that long forgotten, long discarded ore that all the classic, early Westerns are made from. A Western blissfully unaware of every attempt made to try to modernize the genre since Eastwood went to Spain. A movie so absurd, yet somehow so honest in its absurdity, that I can’t help but love everything about it.
The film stars Magnum P.I. as a cowboy named Quigley. He has a costar and a romantic interest too, and viewers might initially expect the role to be filled by the really small woman with the really big jugs who follows him around for most of the film, but don’t be fooled. His real costar and true love is his incredibly fetishized rifle, but we will get into that later. The villain is Hans from Die Hard, who rules so hard as a villain that his involvement alone should sell this movie to any skeptic. Plot: Hans is an evil Australian cattle baron who wants to exterminate all the aboriginals on the continent, but can’t find anyone in Australia who can shoot straight enough to hit them. He has the brilliant idea of importing a red-blooded American who does know how to shoot” the most talented long-range marksman in the country, no less” but also makes the somewhat poor decision to not initially explain to him what he’ll be shooting. The rest of the movie features a good, white American using a really big gun to teach evil Aussie imperialists how to respect the indigenous peoples who lived on the land before them. If you put any thought into it, this concept will probably offend most, especially if you are Australian” but nobody fucking cares if you are offended, because you are Australian.
Thankfully, the absurdity of an American serving as the savior of a native people is easily forgotten because Tom Selleck is somehow so believable in an unbelievable role. He plays a kind of Western hero that has been dead since the early sixties, when Peckinpah and Leone and Bronson and Eastwood set a standard for heroes who always squint and never smile. A hero who has no dark side, a gunfighting saint who helps old ladies cross the street, puts baby birds back in their nests, never swears in front of women, and occasionally shoots bad people. I won’t even call him John Wayne, because John Wayne always played a bit of a surly, judgmental prick. Selleck is like a second coming of the great Randolph Scott a handsome, kind-natured gentleman who just wants to do the most good he possibly can, and will easily kill anyone who gets in his way. This is a kind of a role it takes a special kind of actor to portray convincingly, especially with audiences now trained to be skeptical of them. Selleck doesn’t just pull it off; he sets a whole new standard.
Also, ladies take note” this tall piece of man meat has got a handsomeness and sex appeal about him in this movie that goes beyond even his Ferrari-driving, hairy chest and jean shorts days. I don’t even know who I’d compare him against save perhaps Mickey Rourke in his Angel Heart era (before all those boxing matches fucked his face” look up pictures if you don’t believe me). There’s a romantic subplot in this movie with Laura San Giacomo, who isn’t the best actress and plays a really annoying character, but also has really big boobs, a dark enough backstory, and a satisfying enough character arc to make her easily tolerable. And ladies, ladies, there’s a thing Quigley does for her that should go down in history as one of the great moments of sappy film romance. Before he rides off to the final showdown, he stops, turns, looks at her, and smiles and just holds it there for a while. Its significance only makes sense in context, and would take too many words to explain, but if it doesn’t get your vagoos moist when you see it, maybe it’s time to change your wiper fluid.
And in case the preceding paragraphs have any of you dudes worrying that this movie will be as boring and melodramatic as most of those old G-rated Westerns, have no fear. This movie has a body-count that rivals Robocop. Even before Quigley unsheathes his murdergun, there’s the ongoing genocide of the aboriginals he is witness to, and they don’t candy-coat any of it. Then he turns into a goddamned bogan exterminator, taking out upward of thirty of the bastards from one end of the outback to the next. His methods add just enough novelty to the violence to make it feel fresh, too. He’s a specialist in long-range marksmanship, remember, so he nails most of them from a half a mile away and blows them all practically in half. He’s got a Sharps rifle, you see, an enormous .50-caliber buffalo rifle that, as I mentioned before, is the most fetishized piece of movie weaponry since Dirty Harry and his .44 or Paul Kersey and his friend Wildey got together. I’d go so far as to say that the rifle and Selleck, a onetime celebrity endorser for the NRA, have a chemistry together. The way he feathers the double triggers, perfectly imitates recoil, and blows softly down the breech after shooting all make a viewer wonder if he and the rifle had a sex scene that got left on the cutting room floor. This is why, if you look up other reviews, half of them will be written by middle-aged gun nuts getting their own vagoos moist or just complaining about having to cover their eyes whenever naked aboriginal breasts on are screen.
The movie is a strange mix of tones, bouncing back and forth between cartoony, comical, sentimental, tragic, and blood-soaked, and somehow it finds just the right recipe for a more entertaining Western than Tombstone ever was. In short: a real American hero with an Old West version of a sniper rifle takes on the great grandfather of Hans Gruber and becomes the white savior of the Australian aboriginal, all while trying to talk some huge titties into a three-way with himself and his rifle. He even stares down an entire regiment of foppish British redcoats at one point, an army of liberated aboriginals at his back, and causes their leader to literally drop his monocle. Watch this movie, and grin like an idiot.