ACTOR GUY PEARCE!
Be honest, are you a bit surprised to find Guy Pearce under the Dissection slab this week? I know I am a little. You think that's because, as such a versatile performer, it's easy to overlook the amount of genre material he's forayed into over his career? Could be, but make no mistake, the diverse English-born Aussie actor has always championed our beloved brand of cinema. Just peep the resume. After his breakout role of Ed Exley in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, the brilliant but ballsy brownnoser, Pearce has gone on to appear in such coolly varied genre work as THE DEVIL GAME, RAVENOUS, MEMENTO, THE TIME MACHINE, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE PROPOSITION, FIRST SNOW, IN HER SKIN, THE ROAD, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, ANIMAL KINGDOM, PROMETHEUS, LOCKOUT, SEEKING JUSTICE - and of course - has the post-apocalyptic two-hander with R.Patz called THE ROVER hitting theaters this Friday (the 13th!) Seems like a perfect opportunity then, given his attraction to all things macabre, that we drop Guy under the hot lamp of the AITH microscope and Dissect the sumbitch once and for all. You down? Let's do this shite!
As far as gruelingly demanding performances go, not to mention the skill to be thoroughly believable in said performance, MEMENTO has to be Pearce's finest hour to date. It just does. First off, dude's onscreen in just about every single scene, dominating the frame, virtuosically playing both hero an unreliable narrator as he aptly guides us through Chris Nolan's twisted storytelling. It's hard to keep such a convoluted plotline from being utterly indiscernible, and Pearce does a wail of job informing the audience every step of the way through his nuanced performance. Playing an amnesiac is never an easy assignment, I'd imagine, but when you have the rare anterograde variety - the inability to form new memories - well that just ups the difficulty quotient alone, wouldn't you say? Think of the consistency and continuity you'd have to exact in order to keep the character feasible. Never-mind MEMENTO'S disjointed narrative structure and reverse chronology the whole experience hinges on. Shite's bonkers!
Anecdotally, I recall my girlfriend at the time taking me to see MEMENTO when it first came out, offering absolutely zero about it beforehand. As you might imagine, I was fucking flattened by the time the credits unspooled. It was unlike any filmgoing experience I'd ever had. I at times felt moved, enthralled, deep laughter even...and at others I felt stuck, trapped, claustrophobically tortured in the same way Pearce's character Leonard must have felt. What a refreshing bravura piece filmmaking, made even more timeless with the intermittent use of black and white against the color contrast. A brilliant choice! Almost as brilliant as the fractal narrative framed around a murder mystery, and the elaborate chits of ink Leonard uses as clues to find his wife's killer. So cool, so unique and so damn compelling!
As the law of averages would dictate, Pearce has undoubtedly appeared in his fair share of subpar genre efforts. But to our minds, one reeks foulest among all, simply because of the pedigree and expectations involved. Hell, we even sent E.Walk to fucking Australia for this sumbitch. Australia! Yes folks, I of course refer to Guillermo del Toro's castrated haunted-house bore-fest DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Yikes!
Granted, del Toro didn't direct this anodyne "R" rated pile of dreck, no, he let feature first-timer Troy Nixey take the fall. But GDT did co-adapt the script with Matthew Robbins, doing so from the obscure 1973 TV-movie directed by John Newland. So with that semi-authorial and producorial responsibility, let's not forget about the odd miscasting of Guy Pearce in the flick. It could have been anyone. Why give such a capable and proven actor so little to work with? Simply because the flick was shot down under? I hope not. Sure, Pearce does all he can with the rote material, but come on, he's way better than having to play second fiddle to a little girl, giving a one-dimensional turn as a preening if estranged father. Like the movie as a whole to del Toro's name, the part of Alex is far below Pearce's standards. Fuck, I'm still pissed I decided to watch this shite late one night.
In addition to tackling a wide swath of different parts, one constant in Pearce's work is that of a cocky know-it-all...a highly intelligent but arrogant type of character. We've seen him nail such roles in stuff like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, MEMENTO, LOCKOUT, THE PROPOSITION, THE TIME MACHINE, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and many others. Dude has a cocksure air about him that he uses time and time again to his advantage, both personally and professionally.
But you know what, after perusing Guy's resume once more, I noticed another cool little trend worthy of noting if not outright respecting. Pearce isn't afraid to play real life characters. Over the years he's portrayed Errol Flynn (FLYNN), Harry Houdini (DEATH DEFYING ACTS), Andy Warhol (FACTORY GIRL) and King Edward VIII (THE KING'S SPEACH). This not only speaks to the man's intrepid nature, but his diversity as well. Guy can play period, contemporary, star in indies, play bit parts in giant blockbusters (IRON MAN 3)...dude's a 5-tool utility player!
Given the man's excellent taste and the wisdom to choose projects on behalf of said sensibility, Pearce actually has a number of solid low-key outings in his CV. I mean, I could easily cite his collaborative work with John Hillcoat in both THE PROPOSITION and LAWLESS...two engrossing, violent neo-westerns. Or I could just as easily mention Pearce's key turns in smaller flicks like IN HER SKIN or ANIMAL KINGDOM, two indie efforts whose credibility instantly skyrockets with the mere presence of Guy. Hell, I could wax glowingly about LOCKOUT, the fun-filled action-thriller where Pearce actually gets to flex his comedic chops for a change. That flick is a blast! Equally impressive was Pearce in the quiet if pensive little thriller called FIRST SNOW, in which he plays the enigmatic lead. If we had to anoint a runner-up, FIRST SNOW would likely sit atop Guy's hidden treasure trove.
That said, there's really only one true standout among Guy's unheralded run. You already know what's up, I'm talking about the superb 1999 cannibal chiller RAVENOUS!
RAVENOUS is one of my all time favorite horror flicks. The snow-dappled, period-set tale of terror features Pearce in the starring role of Captain John Boyd, as he's promoted and redeployed to Fort Spencer after the Mexican-American war. There he runs into a ragtag band of cannibalistic misfits, which director Antonia Bird cast impeccably. In addition to Pearce, the flick features Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, John Spencer and Neal McDonough. First fucking rate! But in the end, it's Pearce's show. He gives such a physically exigent performance, the harsh winters and incessant hand-to-hand combat he's forced into only reinforce the psychological toll of the character of Boyd. Dude quite literally get chewed, chomped and spit the f*ck out! It's a tour de force in my opinion, and I'm guessing it's this performance that won him the lead in MEMENTO. It's that impressive!
Marking his 50th total screen credit (big and small) dating all the way back to 1986, Pearce is poised to win yet a new legion of fans when THE ROVER hits limited theaters this Friday. The flick looks like a dusty neo-western revenge tale, directed by the supremely talented David Michod (ANIMAL KINGDOM). Boasting the tagline: "Fear the man with nothing to Lose" - THE ROVER picks up:
Ten years after a global economic collapse, a cold-blooded drifter (Pearce) traverses the scorched Australian outback on a mission to track down the men who stole his last remaining possession - his car. When he crosses paths with a badly wounded member of the gang, he takes the vulnerable, naïve young man along as his unwitting accomplice."
Sounds pretty badass, doesn't it...definitely our kind of flick! I mean, it has the hot, sweaty, sun-baked Aussie setting that all-time great thrillers like MAD MAX, WAKE IN FRIGHT, ROADGAMES showcases. But at the same time, has the sparse, quiet, minimalistic stylings of something like DRIVE or THE ROAD (another post-apocalyptic thriller starring Pearce). A fresh combo indeed, the result of which is already garnering killer word of mouth. Seriously, if you've had it with all the engorged yet hollow studio blockbusters this summer, get out and clock THE ROVER before it leaves theaters.
Straight up...given Guy Pearce's history of choosing outstanding genre projects, we should all go out and see THE ROVER when it hits theaters this Friday. The flick is already generating a ton of buzz, mainly for the wonderful performances of its two stars. In short, it's a sure bet, in large part because of Pearce's stupendous resume. Dude's a tremendous actor! Since 1999, the man has not only graced, but elevated such dark and sordid material as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE DEVIL GAME, RAVENOUS, MEMENTO, THE TIME MACHINE, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE PROPOSITION, FIRST SNOW, IN HER SKIN, THE ROAD, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, ANIMAL KINGDOM, PROMETHEUS, LOCKOUT, SEEKING JUSTICE et al. Here's hoping that, despite his diverse talent taking him toward every genre under the sun, that Guy remains as drawn to the world of horror as we all are!