Total Recall: Guy Pearce's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark star.
By the time he turned 20, Guy Pearce had already been an award-winning amateur bodybuilder, fencing student, and Australian soap star -- the kind of career path that not only must make for great conversation at cocktail parties, but set the tone for an eclectic filmography that has seen Pearce go on to take roles in period dramas, Disney comedies, and neo-noir classics. This week, he returns to theaters with Katie Holmes and a house full of creepy-crawlies in the Guillermo del Toro-produced Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark, and we're celebrating by taking a look back at his critical highlights. It's time for Total Recall!
10. First Snow
A thriller starring Guy Pearce as a man with a haunted past who's told by a fortune teller that he may not have long to live, First Snow should have been a slam dunk with critics -- especially considering that the fortune teller was played by consummate character actor J.K. Simmons, and that the supporting cast was rounded out by dependable faces such as William Fichtner and Adam Scott. Alas, a sizable percentage of writers felt the finished product was too slow, and didn't do enough with its intriguing premise -- although for Stephen Holden of the New York Times, it was pretty strong stuff. Calling it "a pointed little thriller with metaphysical pretensions," Holden argued that "First Snow is shrewd enough to approach basic philosophical questions in sneaky, offhand ways."
It's hard to decide which is more surprising about Traitor -- that it presented a sympathetic view of a Muslim terrorist (or is he?) in 2008, or that the story was cooked up by none other than Steve Martin. Either way, Traitor represented a nice opportunity for star Don Cheadle to show off his dramatic chops, along with a terrific supporting cast that included Pearce as an FBI agent whose relentless pursuit of Cheadle helps frame the final act of the movie. It didn't do much at the box office, but for critics like Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, Traitor was "an earnest, efficient, serviceable thriller that makes a valiant effort to untangle some of the moral complexities of the post-9/11 world."
For its tenth adaptation, Alexandre Dumas' classic novel received a bit of a facelift -- and, as is their wont, a number of critics were fairly cheesed about the storyline alterations and beefed-up action that director Kevin Reynolds and screenwriter Jay Wolpert brought to the tale. For most, however, the most crucial elements of the story remained intact -- namely, the struggle for vengeance of a French sailor (James Cavizel) who is betrayed and sent to prison by his supposed friend (Pearce). As Peter Bradshaw put it in his review for the Guardian, "Dumas's classic tale is such a rattling good yarn, there's nothing you can do to derail it as it hurtles down the track."
7. Two Brothers
The two brothers of the title are a pair of tigers that viewers meet as adorable cubs in the opening act, but this isn't the syrupy cuddlefest it might look like. Really, although Two Brothers doesn't lack for coo-inducing shots of the fuzzy protagonists, it's also a darker and altogether more intense animal movie than American audiences have grown accustomed to -- the tale of a tiger family torn asunder by an unscrupulous hunter (played by Pearce) who wreaks havoc in the brothers' lives. Does it all end on a heartwarming note? Of course. But as the Arizona Republic's Randy Cordova argued, "Anyone older than 12 can figure out what's going to happen, but the movie still packs an emotional punch that will keep adults entertained as much as the young ones."
With John Hillcoat behind the cameras and a script by Australian musical icon Nick Cave, The Proposition is a modern Western with offscreen credentials that fairly ooze cool -- and the same could be said of its cast, a lineup that included Pearce, John Hurt, Emily Watson, Ray Winstone, and Danny Huston. They all came together to help dramatize the tale of the Burns brothers gang, a notorious group of 19th century Australian outlaws who weren't above raping and/or murdering anyone who got in their way. Not exactly a family film, in other words -- but one whose finely tuned sense of violent dread mesmerized critics like Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote, "Hillcoat creates a vision as nihilistic as any horror film ever put on a screen, but so well acted and carefully conceived that it transcends exploitation."