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Film / Quigley Down Under

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Quigley Down Under is a 1990 Western film with a twist: it's set (and in a nice aversion of California Doubling filmed) in Western Australia.

Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck), possibly the world's greatest sharpshooter, travels from Wyoming to Australia to take a job with Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman), a Cattle Baron who needs help clearing wild animals off his land. When he finds out that said "wild animals" are the local Aboriginal people, he doesn't take it well. Marston doesn't take Quigley's refusal too well, either, and things kind of escalate from there.

As if that weren't enough, Quigley also has to deal with Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo), who's quite pretty but comes by her nickname honestly, and is apparently convinced he's her long-lost husband Roy. You don't need us to tell you how that subplot ends, do you?

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Child-Killer Backstory: "Crazy" Cora tells a heartbreaking tale to Matthew Quigley about how she accidentally smothered her son trying to quiet him so that a group of Comanches wouldn't find them. Her husband, Roy, sent her on the first boat to Australia. She almost repeats her mistake while caring for an Aboriginal child when attacked by dingoes, but she realizes in time what she's doing, and instead, decides that she and the child should both "make some noise" as she starts blasting the attacking dingoes.
  • Ace Custom: Quigley's rifle has had some aftermarket modifications.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • After Cora and Quigley are driven out to the middle of the desert and left for dead by Marston, Cora says "Don't worry, on a new job it's quite common for things not to go well at first." Which gets a good laugh from Quigley, after she's been nothing but annoying for the first quarter of the film.
    • When Marston is dying, he gives an ironic chuckle when Quigley explains his lethal Quick Draw and accuracy with a revolver after continually refusing to use any weapon other than his rifle with "I always said I never had much use for one. I never said I didn't know how to use it."
  • Action Girl: Crazy Cora. "Let's both make some noise!"
  • Arch-Enemy: Matthew Quigley has Elliot Marston, who got him to Australia under false pretenses and left him for dead when he protested his genocide campaign.
  • Bad Boss: Marston is generally a douche to his ranch hands and only gets worse, to the point of using a man as live bait.
    Marston: Have Kavanaugh guard the front step. Have him wear my coat and hat.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Quigley and Cora are left to die in the desert by Marston's men, but are rescued by a group of Aborigines and nursed back to health.
  • Big Bad: Elliot Marston, the Cattle Baron masterminding the local Aborigine genocide.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity:
    • Marston's decision to abandon Quigley in the Outback to die of thirst, rather than just shooting him and burying the body. Somewhat justified: the British officers had heard an American sharpshooter was coming and met him on the way to the ranch. They might have asked questions if he'd simply disappeared, so Marston wanted to be able to say they'd wandered off and been killed by the desert (and in Marston's defense, the deadliness of the Australian desert is legendary - tales of the country's early exploration by Europeans have a depressing tendency to end with most or all of the group dead from lack of water).
    • A extra layer of stupidity is that Marston sent a couple goons to dump Quigley and Cora and one of them had Quigley's rifle.
    • Yet another layer: the men hogtied Cora — which would be obvious to anyone who eventually found their bodies and blow the "wandered off" story — but left Quigley completely unbound (and apparently not searched, either, letting him trick the aforementioned goons with the promise of gold on his person into getting shivved).
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Marston fancies himself this, as he has a fascination (almost an obsession) with the American West and traditional Cowboy fare.
    "Some men are born in the wrong century. I think I was born on the wrong continent."
  • Broken Bird: Crazy Cora.
  • Cavalry Officer: Major Ashley-Pitt of the British Army. A pretentious dickhead who is said to have an "understanding" (i.e. bribery) with Marston.
  • Cattle Baron: Marston.
  • The Cavalry: Played with slightly in that the literal cavalry are the threat. Quigley finds himself surrounded by the British cavalry with their guns trained on him brandishing a warrant for his arrest for murder. Just when it looks like there's no way out, the officers look up and realize that they in turn are surrounded by Aboriginal warriors armed to the teeth, silently staring them down and clearly not about to let anything happen to their friend. The British turn tail and beat a quick retreat.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: She is not called Crazy Cora for nothing.
  • Complexity Addiction: Could be easily Marston's Fatal Flaw, as he routinely over-engineers his plans throughout the movie. The deserters he wants to shot in cold blood? Elaborate and risky set-up to justify showing off his Quick Draw. Aborigines in his land? Outsource a sharpshooter from the other half of the globe. Having Quigley at his mercy in the finale? Set up a pistol duel, in the assumption Quigley can be out-drawn. He could save himself a lot of trouble and time, if he simply hired more farm-hands and continue with his so far successful plot.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Marston assumes that Quigley's sniping skills are this, since he refuses to even carry another weapon and dismissed revolvers out of hand. He is not correct.
  • Cruel Mercy: Quigley threatens a grievously injured villain (whose back is broken, so he's as good as dead in the outback) with this at one point when interrogating him. Instead of giving him his gun so he can commit suicide with it, he threatens to leave him alive for the ants and dingoes to eat. After he gets the info he needs out of the guy, he hands him back his gun, and it becomes an "assisted" Mercy Kill.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Marston vows to do this to Quigley when he discovers something Quigley did. Alan Rickman has used an almost identical line as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • When gathering prostitutes in the beginning of the movie, Marston's men refer to the Aboriginal prostitutes they already had as "black prostitutes". Refering to Aboriginal persons as "Black" is now considered as an offensive word, but this kind of slur was normal at the time the movie is set.
    • The real job Quigley was offered that his sharpshooting skills were needed for? Complete and total extermination of the Aborigines living on land that a white station owner wants.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Quigley accepts an offer to eradicate "wild animals" for money — by which Marston means the native Aboriginal tribes occupying the land he wishes to own.
  • Death by Irony: Marston misunderstood Quigley when he said he "never had much use" for handguns.
  • Death Glare: Quigley hits Marston with a doozy right after he gives the real reason he hired Quigley.
  • Destination Defenestration: During dinner with Marston, Quigley asks for more details about his expected duties, since "Ten pounds per month to shoot wild dogs seems like a lot for not much," especially since Marston already has riflemen and loves guns enough himself that they could easily handle any dingos that come by. Marston then explains the local government's policy of "Pacification by Force" and Quigley's true intended targets: the Australian Aborigine. Quigley muses on this, then cut to Marston being hurled out his dining room window.
  • Dehumanization: Marston describes the Australian Aborigines as "wild animals." In fact, his job offer was ostensibly for a hunter to take care of wild animals attacking cattle - and he only specified what kind of animals he had in mind once Quigley was already at his station.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • In the initial setup for their duel, Marston decided to give Quigley his rifle. Then, in the last second, he changes his mind, reasoning he's giving a sharpshooter his preferred weapon, so instead, Quigley is given a revolver. Few seconds later, Quigley easily outdraws Marston and his goons. If he had been left with his rifle on the ground, he would have been gunned down before he could even bend down for it.
    • Throughout the film, Crazy Cora insistently says Quigley's name is Roy. At the end, Quigley escapes arrest in town by giving his name as Roy. Meanwhile, Cora has recovered from her psychological trauma and declares her love with Quigley's real name.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Even before Marston reveals he wants Quigley to kill the Aborigines, he makes our hero very uncomfortable by gunning down two desperate British deserters without batting an eye.
    • By extension, when Quigley comes across (and subsequently gets in a fight with) three men trying to manhandle a woman into their wagon, arguing they'd gotten permission from their boss to "bring some white tarts back to the station," the revelation that they work for Marston is disconcerting.
    • The first we see of Quigley himself, he’s being a gentleman by letting an elderly couple disembark from the boat ahead of him, and being a badass by casually delivering a well-placed kick to the crotch of a rude settler who tried to cut in front of them.
  • Evil Redhead: Young Gun O'Flynn (one of Marston's meanest goons) has prominent red hair.
  • Exact Words: Quigley "never had much use for" revolvers. He's actually a very fast and accurate shot, he just normally uses his rifle to kill from so far away that his enemies never get close enough for him to bother carrying a revolver.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Marston thinks of himself as this. Quigley turns out to be better.
  • Fisticuff-Provoking Comment: Quigley purposely picks a fight with three thugs by asking, "Excuse me. I'm new here so I ain't rightly certain: Is everybody in this country as butt ugly as you three?"
  • Final Solution: Marston asks Quigley to exterminate all the Aborigines on his land. When Quigley realizes he's been hired basically to commit genocide, he does not take it kindly at all.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Marston, an Australian, is obsessed with The Wild West of America.
  • Foreign Queasine: The Aborigines give Quigley and Cora Witchetty grubs to eat.
  • Foreshadowing: When arriving at the station, Quigley witnesses Marston's Quick Draw skills and his duel-prone behavior. In the finale, this comes back and Quigley isn't surprised one bit, especially when he's "standing right in the old pistol target".
  • Freudian Excuse: Marston's hatred for the Aborigines stems from the death of his parents.
  • Friendly Shopkeeper: Quigley befriends Mr. Grimmelman, the German gunsmith in one of the local towns. The man provides a badly needed refill of rare ammunition that Quigley is using.
  • Friendly Sniper: Quigley is a jovial, outgoing fellow, always first to help people in need. He's also a deadly sniper.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Aside from being a genuinely nice and helpful person, Quigley also never shoots anyone In the Back and always gives his enemies a chance to surrender. Which they unfortunately keep abusing, wrongly assuming he's too soft to kill them in self-defense.
  • Groin Attack: Two in the first few minutes!
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: Marston fancies himself a good gunslinger. He's not wrong, but he fails to account for the possibility that someone else might be better. Likewise, one of his mooks, O'Flynn, vastly overestimates his own shooting skills.
  • Gun Porn: The Sharps.
    "It's a lever-action, breech loader. Usual barrel length's thirty inches. This one has an extra four. It's converted to use a special forty-five caliber, hundred and ten grain metal cartridge, with a five-hundred forty grain paper patch bullet. It's fitted with double set triggers, and a Vernier sight. It's marked up to twelve-hundred yards. This one shoots a mite further."
  • The Gunslinger: Who else but Matthew Quigley?
  • High-Class Glass: British Major Ashley-Pitt's ever-present monocle.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Crazy Cora.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: 6'4" Tom Selleck and 5'2" Laura San Giacomo.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Largely averted. Quigley almost never misses, but at anything past point blank range he has to line up his shots carefully, adjust his sights and he often uses a solid base to help prop up and steady his weapon. Just like he would need to do in reality. The only real offender is the very first shot he makes in the movie to demonstrate his skill to the Big Bad: first Quigley attaches the sight (previously removed for transportation), and then makes an unsupported shot at a target far enough away that there is noticeable delay between gunshot and impact; he then goes on to fire twice more, hitting the target 3 for 3. In reality the gun would have to be re-sighted once the sight was re-mounted. The shot itself, while not technically impossible, is still being made at very long-range, with a low-velocity cartridge, amid an environment where mirage affects the ability to aim... all without even bracing the rifle. To make such a shot might not require being the best marksman on the planet, but it demands a spot on the short-list.
    • However, even during that display of his marksmanship, Quigley still carefully checks the wind direction both in general and around his own location, then spends some significant time aiming before finally pulling the trigger. The improbable part doesn't really come up until he instantly takes two follow-up shots, which would require the same aiming effort and as already noted, he never calibrated his sights first.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The one survivor of a massacre of Aborigines is a toddler.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted twice: first with the mook mentioned above in Cruel Mercy, who faces a slow death from a gut-shot, then with Marston himself, who lives long enough to have an ironic chuckle at how he misunderstood what Quigley meant when he said he "didn't have much use" for pistols. Usually, though, this trope is played straight, and everybody that gets shot by anyone else just drops down dead.
  • In the Back: Used a few times, just because battles are chaotic, but very pointedly averted at one point. Quigley narrowly escapes a barrage of bullets and gets the drop on his THREE attackers. Although the element of surprise would have been very useful, Quigley calls out to them just so they will turn around and save him from this trope.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Marston's men have a bad habit of pretending to surrender, then pulling a hidden gun. Quigley quickly becomes aware of this tactic, but refuses to actually kill the "surrendering" enemies - until they actually draw, of course. Then he blows them away without remorse.
    "You might wanna try your luck with that belly gun. Then again, you might not."
  • It's Personal: As villainous as Marston is, he does have a somewhat valid reason for hating the aborigines so much; his parents were killed by them when he was a child.
  • Land Down Under: As you would expect from the title, the film takes place in Australia, complete with featured wildlife and outback deserts and mysterious Aborigines.
  • Large Ham: Alan Rickman is clearly enjoying the hell out of his role.
  • Lead the Target: Quigley excels at this, to the point of being able to hit several mooks, riding on horseback at full gallop across his line of fire several hundred yards away, on the first shot. Justified, as it is established early on that he is one of the best sharpshooters on the planet, he is intimately familiar with the ballistic performance of his rifle and its ammunition, and he takes time to adjust his sights and carefully aim before taking such long-range shots on moving targets.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Quigley does this in the Outback with a badly-wounded mook.
  • Leave Him to Me!: When Marston's men come to help him after he's just crashed through a window, he orders them to stop and charges back inside by himself. After a blow lands and Marston is once again lying in glass, he orders his men to get in there and kill Quigley.
  • Magical Native American: As part of the setting-shifted-Western premise, a tribe of Aborigines fill this role.
  • Manly Tears: Quigley breaks down for a moment, albeit very stoically, after witnessing Marston's men massacring the Aborigines by running them off a cliff.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Marston has an Aboriginal manservant who assists him even though he's aiming to wipe out the man's relatives. It's implied that there's an element of personal obligation; the moment Marston dies, he ditches his whitefella clothing and heads back to his tribe.
    • Dobkin, Marston's ranch foreman, is less overtly villainous than the rest, but still goes along with all of his boss's evil intentions.
  • National Geographic Nudity: Several scenes with Aboriginals in the bush have topless women of varying ages.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Marston's grand idea of setting up Quigley to have a Showdown at High Noon involves giving Quigley a gun, which enables Quigley to win the day. Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? indeed!
  • No Animals Were Harmed: True of this movie, despite some very realistic-looking scenes of horses falling and rolling, and even one of a horse and rider going over a cliff. They even had a veterinarian on the shoot whenever animals were in use. This even extended to the scene where Quigley and Cora are offered live Witchetty grubs to eat: they actually ate pieces of dough. Notably, probably for extra reassurance, the "No animals were harmed" disclaimer is on the very first screen of closing credits rather than its typical spot toward the end.
  • No One Could Survive That!: With those exact words!
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Quigley makes it clear he doesn't generally need any weapon but his rifle, but that doesn't mean he's not hiding a blade in his boot.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Cora.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Quigley — who has just been shot in the leg, kicked in the head, and dragged across the desert behind a horse, and is now facing three gunmen — suddenly straightens up and says, "This ain't Dodge City, and you ain't Bill Hickock," Marston gets this look as he begins to realize something is about to go wrong.
  • One Bullet Left: Quigley gives a greviously wounded mook with a broken spine a choice when they both realise there is only one bullet left in his revolver: either "win" by killing Quigley or use that last round to put himself out of misery, rather than spend the next two-three days dying in the outback, probably with the "help" of hungry animals.
  • One-Hit Polykill: With Marston and his men scurrying from cover to cover during his one-man siege of the ranch, two mooks suddenly drop dead, followed by the delayed sound of a single rifle shot. The others appropriately freak out.
    Marston: That bastard's been sitting up in the rocks all morning just waiting for two idiots to line up in his sights!
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Oddly used as often as the Instant Death Bullet. Nastily subverted at one point (see Cruel Mercy above).
  • Painless Death for a Price: The Hero Matthew Quigley comes upon a group of Big Bad Marston's mooks killing a group of Aboriginal Australians, as part of Marston's efforts to commit genocide on the locals. After the shooting is over, he finds one wounded mook alive but whose back is broken due to falling from his horse. The guy begs for a Mercy Kill, but Quigley gets some information from him first, after threatening to leave the guy to find out if the ants or the dingoes will get to him first.
  • The Ophelia: "Crazy Cora" lives up to her nickname. She has moments of lucidity but just as often mistakes Quigley for her missing husband Roy.
  • Period Piece: The film was made in 1990 but set in the 1860s.
  • Person as Verb: In a meta example, this film gave real-life sharpshooters the term "a Quigley" for Quigley's feat of dispatching two mooks with one bullet.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Marston sure hates him some Aborigines.
  • Pretender Diss: Quigley, to Marston.
    "This ain't Dodge City, and you ain't Bill Hickok."
  • Questionable Consent: Cora makes a move on Quigley, but seems to confuse him for her former husband Roy. Being a gentleman, he tells her nothing is going to happen until she can say his correct name. At the end, she reminds him of this conversation and that his name is Matthew Quigley.
  • Quick Draw:
    • Marston, being fascinated by tales of the American Wild West, is actually trying to impress Quigley with his, as he sets up the two deserters for an escape attempt, only to mercilessly gun them down the second they try to draw Dobkin's weapons. It leads to the exact reverse outcome, as Quigley is visibly disgusted by such pointless brutality.
    • O'Flynn, one of Marston goons, is shown practicing his. While he's nowhere near as fast as his employer, he's still the best gunslinger of the bunch.
    • Quigley never had much use of this, but still confidently outdraws Marston, O'Flynn and Dobkin. So much that the latter two didn't even managed to move before being shot - and they already had guns in their hands.
  • Railroad Plot: A variation. Marston hired Quigley so he could eliminate the Aborigines living on the land that Marston wants.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The Aborigines go completely untranslated in the actual film, although the trailer features some translated jokes from them.
  • Reconstruction: Of the Old Western films. Quigley is still a gruff but heroic sharpshooter, but he uses a rifle instead of a pistol for improbable long distance shots and it's treated realistically with him sighting it in and adjusting his aiming tools accordingly. The villain is a dastardly criminal and natives are involved, but Marston's villainy is based off his treatment of the Aborigines, who are portrayed as kind and victims of his and the military's brutality.
  • Roofhopping: Used by Quigley in the town fight. Deconstructed when he lands on a relatively weak roof that breaks under him.
    Quigley: [groaning off-camera] Ah, shit!
  • Scenery Porn: Lots and lots of wide shots of the Australian Outback. Also Lampshaded by Quigley and Cora — both Americans new to the country — who talk about how beautiful it is.
  • Scotireland: A good many of Marston's Mooks, instead of being Australian, have this going on, especially O'Flynn and Dobkin. They're explicitly referred to as convicts early on. Not inaccurate for the location and time period.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Three of Marston's men flee the ranch the night before the final battle.
  • Showdown at High Noon: Kind of.
  • Shouting Shooter: After initially panicking during the dingo attack, Cora tells the baby, “Aw Hell, let’s both make some noise!” then starts shouting and singing as she blows away the dingoes. Would almost count as a Madness Mantra, as she clearly sees the predators as the Comanches that looted her home in Texas, but ends up being the catharsis that helps her finally recover.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Cora’s psychological trauma stems from the death of her baby boy and subsequent abandonment by her husband.
  • The Sociopath: Elliot Marston, a Cattle Baron who wants all the local Aborigines killed for the sake of his own profit. He calls them animals, and seems to genuinely believe it.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: An entire tribe of Aborigines, simultaneously; Quigley is suitably impressed.
  • Supporting Protagonist: In terms of character growth and change, this story is really more about Cora than Quigley.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Quigley sends back Marston's invitation letter with holes punched in it, and writing down the distance from which he took those shots. Since no one actually saw him taking the supposed shots, nobody takes Quigley's claim seriously and he has to prove it in front of the entire station in an elaborate marksmanship stunt.
    • When being dumped in the outback, Quigley manages to kill all the goons at the scene. However, since one of them was trying to run away at full speed in his wagon, the horses are still running away once the driver is dead, leaving Quigley and Cora stranded.
    • Despite this being a western, the action takes place in Australia, rather than the Wild West. So after killing Marston and the majority of his goons and antagonizing the local military garrison, Quigley is accounted for all the murders he committed and there is a "Wanted!" Poster of him. He only gets away by lying about his identity.
  • Tap on the Head: Both averted and played straight. During the fight in the town, Quigley hits a mook with the butt of his Sharps and instantly knocks him out. Not even one minute later, though, he drops a ceramic chimney piece on top of another villain, but the guy, though knocked flat for a moment, gets up none the worse for wear.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Cora insists on calling Quigley "Roy." Turns out Roy is her former husband, who blamed her for the death of their infant child and sent her away.
  • Try and Follow: Quigley leads the bad guys on a harrowing, Booby Trap-filled chase over the hills of the Outback at the end.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Marston has some of this, but Ashley-Pitt practically oozes this trope in every scene he's in. He speaks in a posh accent, has some elaborately-trimmed muttonchop sideburns, and wears a fancy custom-tailored uniform complete with monocle. He seems to be in denial of the fact that he's every bit as dusty and filthy as the less-expensively dressed troopers he commands, and is a corrupt and racist douchebag to boot.
  • Villain Ball/Bond Villain Stupidity: Marston whizzes two chances to just shoot Quigley.
  • Very Punchable Man: A settler on the boat arriving in Australia rudely tries to cut in line ahead of an elderly couple. Quigley boots him in the crotch without a second thought.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: By the end of the film, Matthew Quigley is by all accounts a murderer and comes with a prize for his head. When he's booking a ticket back to States, the clerk has the poster behind the desk. Quigley gets away by presenting himself as Roy Cobb - the name of Cora's husband.
  • The Western: The film transplants the tropes of the genre — including corrupt cattle barons, gunslingers, magical natives, etc. — to Western Australia. Marston actively forces it, being obsessed with the genre.
  • You Said You Couldn't Dance: Quigley says several times that he never had much use for revolvers, inspiring Marston to set up a Showdown at High Noon as an amusing way to get rid of him. To his shock, Quigley turns out to be a very fast and accurate shot with a revolver and wins the shootout. "Said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it."