An abridged version of this short review was originally published in Risen magazine.

You’ve probably been hearing about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel celebrated by Oprah Winfrey and selling faster than iPhones at your local Barnes and Noble. Guess what — it’s about to become a movie, directed by John Hillcoat.

Wait, John Hillcoat? Shouldn’t a best-selling masterwork about the apocalypse end up in the hands of a master like Alfonso Cuaron or James Cameron or Steven Spielberg?

If you see Hillcoat’s 2006 film The Proposition, you’ll understand. The Proposition is an extremely violent — and yet surprisingly thoughtful — work about a gang of violent brothers and the lawman who seeks to apprehend them. The story addresses essential questions: Justice is necessary, but how much does it cost the man who carries it out? And what happens if someone doesn’t willingly suffer that burden?

It’s as violent as a McCarthy novel, but it was written by the legendary rocker Nick Cave, who has always preferred the bitter to the sweet. The Proposition serves up some of the bloodiest scenes in recent memory, but it also includes unforgettable performances from Danny Huston, John Hurt, and Emily Watson.

But the film belongs to the two leads: Guy Pearce seems to have boiled himself down into some kind of Guy Pearce Concentrate. Battered by the elements, clinging to sanity, his character wrestles with conscience as if it is an alien thing he’s never really dealt with before. And Ray Winstone, soon to appear in Indiana Jones IV, looks like he’s been sculpted from the Australian wilderness around him. Dressed up in his officer’s uniform, he’s not fooling anybody: he’s as capable of monstrous behavior as anyone. But what’s a lawman to do in a wilderness that can’t be tamed?