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Characters / The Proposition

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The Burns Gang


Arthur Burns

Played By: Danny Huston

"This may hurt."

The much-feared eldest Burns brother who now lives in the Australian wilderness.

  • Ax-Crazy: Part of what makes him so dangerous is his unpredictable nature and his capability to commit horrific acts of violence.
  • Big Bad: Of the film.
  • Cop Killer: Murders two police officers onscreen. Given his violent history, it's fairly likely he has murdered lawmen in the past as well.
  • Death Glare: He has some terrifying stares in his arsenal.
  • The Dreaded: Absolutely everyone (save perhaps for his brothers) is utterly terrified of Arthur Burns, and for good reason.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Rides with aborigines and women, and at least appears to view them as equals.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted, he does love his brothers at first, but becomes feels increasingly distant from them following the Hopkins murder. It's shown to be a sham when he reacts with apathy towards Mikey's death, leading Charlie to finally kill him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Arthur is soft-spoken, polite and charming. He's also capable of intense cruelty.
  • Fighting Irish: A brutal and dreaded outlaw who happens to be an Irishman.
  • Horrifying the Horror: The Aboriginal rebels (themselves no strangers to brutality and violence) are scared of him, believing that he is either a "Dog Man" or some kind of spirit.
  • Lack of Empathy: A truly repulsive example, he seems to see raping a pregnant woman to death as no different from smashing a wasp.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: He's not literally a werewolf, but the local Aboriginal rebels refer to him as a "Dog Man", claiming that he has sharp teeth, a tail and fur and that he howls at the moon. This likely stems from the sheer brutality he employs against his victims.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Arthur speaks in a very soft, gentle tone which makes the moments when he does something utterly demented for the sheer joy of it very disturbing.
  • Warrior Poet: Arthur is well-versed in poetry.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's erudite, highly intelligent, prone to contemplation of poetry, and dangerously insane.


Charlie Burns

Played By: Guy Pearce

"You touch my brother again, I'll kill you."

The middle Burns brother, who breaks with Arthur following the 'Hopkins outrage'.

  • Big Brother Instinct: He cares a great deal for his younger brother and will do anything to keep him safe. After Mikey dies from his wounds, he actually breaks down and begins to cry.
    • Mikey's death also serves as a catalyst for Charlie deciding to kill Arthur during the film's climax. When he tells Arthur that their younger brother has died, he pays it no mind. Finally fed up with his brother's callous indifference, he shoots him.
  • Blood from the Mouth: After being speared by an aborigine tribesman. Thanks to Queenie, he survives.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While he is a hardened outlaw, it's clear that there are some lines he won't cross. In a deleted scene, one of the surviving members of the Hopkins family is brought in to identify him and Mikey; he clearly feels guilt over what happened because he can barely face the man.
  • Fighting Irish: A skilled Irish gunslinger.
  • Noble Demon: A hardened outlaw who has no doubt done his fair share of killing, but he clearly has a great deal more honor than his older brother.
    • In a deleted scene, a surviving Hopkins family member is brought before Charlie and Mikey to identify them. Charlie clearly feels guilty over the whole ordeal because he can barely look the man in the eye.
    • He also won't tolerate Samuel attempting to rape Martha during the film's climax. He shoots him dead before it can go any further.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: During the film's climax, he walks in on Samuel trying to rape Martha, Captain Stanley's wife. Having had enough of his brother's callous wrongdoing, he shoots Samuel dead before turning the gun on Arthur.


Mikey Burns

Played By: Richard Wilson

The mentally deficient youngest Burns brother.

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Implied to have some kind of developmental disability, as he has very childlike reactions to everything around him.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Mikey, having endured horrific torture at the hands of the authorities, succumbs to his wounds in his older brother's arms.
  • Morality Pet: Charlie will do anything to protect him, and it's Arthur's apathetic response to his death that pushes him to finally kill him.

The Stanleys

    Captain Stanley 

Capt. Morris Stanley

Played By: Ray Winstone

"I will civilize this land."

A British former soldier tasked with leading the local law enforcement.

  • Butt-Monkey: A dead serious example, as his plan goes completely off the rails and leads to the disintegration of his marriage, his near death, and the rape of his wife.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of The Sheriff, as his plans to bring justice and civilization to the Outback are shown to be futile and deluded, and he is repeatedly emasculated throughout the film.
  • Determinator: Willing to go to extreme lengths to bring Arthur Burns down.
  • Failure Knight: Pretty much everything goes wrong for him, starting when Eden Fletcher exposes his plan to his wife and ending when Arthur Burns comes to his house for vengeance.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: A jaded and cynical man, but he's still willing to go to any lengths to bring justice to the land.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: His deputies are all drunken, vicious idiots who regularly disobey his orders.


Martha Stanley

Played By: Emily Watson

Captain Stanley's fragile, sheltered wife.

  • Alone with the Psycho: At the climax of the film, she's left alone with Samuel while Arthur tortures her husband in the other room.
  • Fish out of Water: She's quite out of place among the rough and tumble people of the Outback.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: She faints with horror after seeing Mikey get flogged to near-death, which she pushed for out of a sense of vengeance for the rape and murder of Eliza Foster.
  • Obliviously Evil: Her desire to see justice for her friend's murder leads to the brutal public torture of a mentally handicapped young man who likely had nothing to do with it in the first place.
  • Revenge Before Reason: She wants justice for the Foster murder at any cost, even if the current target of her anger is only tangentially related to it.
  • Shrinking Violet: A very gentle and fragile person who keeps to herself.

Arthur's Gang



Played By: Tom E. Lewis

"You've got the wrong fucking black man."

An aboriginal man working with Arthur.

  • Badass Bandolier: Wears one during the finale.
  • Black Best Friend: To Arthur.
  • Co-Dragons: With Samuel, for Arthur.
  • Death Glare: His default facial expression.
  • Never My Fault: He blames Charlie for Mikey's death, saying that they should have never left Arthur's side. What he doesn't seem to acknowledge is that the reason Mikey was tortured so mercilessly was because of the horrific crimes that Arthur committed.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "You've got the wrong fucking black man", said shortly before he and Arthur kill Matthews.
  • Villainous Friendship: Shares a genuine camaraderie with Arthur.



Played By: Leah Purcell

  • The Medic: Appears that this is the role she fills in Arthur's gang. After Charlie is nearly killed by an Aboriginal rebel's spear, she tends to his wound, likely saving his life given how grievous a wound it was.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: We're never told what happened to her after the gang breaks Mikey out of jail. She just kind of disappears from the plot altogether.


Samuel Stoat

Played By: Tom Budge

An impulsive and bloodthirsty young man with a penchant for rape.

  • Boom, Headshot!: Charlie blows his brains out while he's trying to rape Martha.
  • The Dragon: To Arthur, who he seems to view as a father figure.
  • The Gunslinger: He's a crack shot with his rifle.
  • Hidden Depths: He's an excellent singer.
  • Killed Midsentence: Mid-song, at any rate. Charlie ventilates his skull while he's in the middle of singing "Peggy Gordon" as he rapes Mrs. Stanley.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Has a very immature and childlike personality, and is the most violent character in the whole film.
  • Sadist: Enjoys torturing and raping his victims.
  • Villainous Rescue: His marksmanship saves Charlie from being killed by aborigines.


Other Characters

    Eden Fletcher 

Eden Fletcher

Played By: David Wenham

The local government official and Stanley's immediate superior.

  • The Dandy: Probably the most well-dressed character in the film.
  • Evil Brit: The very picture of a dapper English gentleman, and one of the most depraved and sadistic bastards in the film short of Arthur Burns himself.
  • Evil vs. Evil: While Arthur and his gang are very, very bad men, the film makes a point to show that the iron-fisted colonial authority Fletcher represents may be many times worse.
  • Jerkass: Fletcher is condescending and looks down his nose at Stanley.
  • Karma Houdini: Absolutely nothing happens to him for his brutal actions, and he presumably continues holding power over the town after the credits roll.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He clearly hates aboriginal people, ordering Captain Stanley to completely exterminate the local tribe in response to an attack by some rebels.
  • Smug Snake: Completely fails to grasp the ramifications of his actions, instead moving forward with a satisfied smirk.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He has a soft, refined way of speaking, but every line is just dripping with contempt.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Orders Mikey receive 100 lashes, then be hanged. The poor kid is near death before they even reach 40.

    Jellon Lamb 

Jellon Lamb

Played By: John Hurt

"Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Jellon Lamb. Citizen of the world, you might say, an adventurer, and, if I may be so bold, a man of no little education."

An elderly bounty hunter on the trail of Arthur Burns.

  • Bounty Hunter: His occupation, and the reason he's hunting Arthur Burns.
  • Didn't Think This Through: He finds Arthur's camp and manages to tie up both Samuel and Charlie. He never stopped to consider that perhaps it wasn't the best idea to sneak into a psychotic outlaw's camp without backup or maybe to just kill Samuel and Charlie when he had the chance instead of basking in his supposed victory. He was practically asking for that bullet to the gut.
  • Evil Old Folks: Lamb is in his old age, but he's still a dangerous and sadistic killer.
  • Laughably Evil: As horrific a human being as he might be, Lamb is remarkably entertaining.
  • Large Ham: He loves to hear himself talk, speaking at length about his various observations of the world around him.
  • Mercy Kill: Arthur decides to kill him slowly and painfully with his knife. Rather than sit by and allow this, Charlie shoots him in the head, put a quick end to his misery.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A complete and utter racist to the core.
    "What is an Irishman but a nigger turned inside out?"
  • Wicked Cultured: He's well-read and able to quote poetry to Arthur Burns.

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