IF WHAT THE movie audience really needs at the moment is a good western, they have it in ''Quigley Down Under.''
The film, opening here today, takes place in Australia, where it was filmed. It is still, however, a true American western.
It has all the familiar elements, a strong hero, a very nasty villain, the girl with the past, a throbbing music score and one standoff after another.
And it is all immensely entertaining. Tom Selleck stars. He plays an American sharpshooter who answers a want ad, one that takes him to Australia where he hopes to work for a landowner.
The landowner, however, is an evil man. He believes in clearing the land of aborigines and does so with hired guns. That's why he wants to hire Quigley. The work just isn't going quickly enough.
Quigley, however, is made of good stuff. He is appalled by what he sees and, shortly after he lands, finds himself fighting the landowner and defending the aborigine.
The lead heavy is played by Alan Rickman, who may be the only weak link in this chain. Rickman, so lethal in ''Die Hard,'' does not quite make it as the nasty land baron.
Laura San Giacomo is Crazy Cora, who arrives on the same boat with Quigley and immediately begins to refer to him by another name, the name of the husband who had placed her on that boat.
It is a sad story this woman tells, and it is feelingly delivered by San Giacomo. There are other moments that are equally touching, but there are comic passages as well. All combine to make a very nice whole.
Selleck is good. The cuteness so evident in his TV series (''Magnum'') is tempered here, and when he stands tall, gun pointed, you know everything is going to turn out all right.
It does. ''Quigley Down Under'' was directed by Simon Wincer, who directed ''Phar Lap'' and produced the 1983 ''Man From Snowy River,'' something you can't miss because he includes a repeat of the sequence that distinguished ''Snowy River,'' one in which horses galloped down a steep incline.
Wincer, who also did ''Lonesome Dove'' for television, has given us a class western in ''Quigley Down Under,'' a movie that includes some stunning action footage involving animals. Wincer reminds us that none of the animals was mistreated or died during the making of his film. That's nice to know.
'Quigley Down Under'' *** An American sharpshooter sails to Australia where he hopes to work for a landowner.
CAST: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman
DIRECTOR: Simon Wincer
RATING: PG-13 (violence, language)
RUNNING TIME: Two hours