Sometimes even the toughest guys go soft, often with mixed results. But it’s just as bad when softies try to act tough for a role: They bare their teeth, they grunt, they blow things up, but there’s just something missing: That innate, rough-and-tumble ferocity that certain action stars possess and most actors lack. There’s a reason that today’s action stars are often the same guys from the ’80s. Some guys have it, some guys don’t. Read on for a list of some of the most egregious un-tough performances by well-meaning actors. Can you think of any that aren’t on this list?
Brendan Fraser in The Mummy (1999)
Fraser’s considerable virtues have been extolled before. The trouble with Fraser is that in The Mummy, he’s not the down-on-his-luck goof you’ve come to know and love. Instead, as a professional adventurer and member of the French Foreign Legion and he’s supposed to be a tough guy. A swashbuckler, as a matter of fact! Fraser simply does not fit the mold. The man ought to stick to what works and for him, alas, that does not include saving the world.
John Travolta in The Punisher (2004)
It’s not that John Travolta is inherently wimpy. It’s just impossible to forget that the defining performances of his career are Grease (1978) and Saturday Night Fever (1977). Even later in life, the role that seems the most natural fit for him is the goofy suburbanite in Wild Hogs. As mobster Howard Saint in The Punisher, Travolta trots all over Miami in fancy suits and slicked-back hair and it’s impossible to take him seriously.
Keanu Reeves in Speed (1994)
Honestly, when does Reeves clock in a convincing performance? In the Bill & Ted movies, and that’s about it. As a rebellious LAPD Officer in Speed, Reeves attempts to channel Mel Gibson from Lethal Weapon,
but merely ends up playing the typical Keanu Reeves vacant surfer dude.
While he doesn’t appear as wimpy as some of these other faux tough
guys, Reeves is by no means an intimidator. Sandra Bullock is this
movie’s real tough guy.
Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi (1983)
the end, Darth Vader and the Emperor are dead. Hamill’s Luke Skywalker
is the last of the Jedi, which means he’s supposed to be the toughest
guy in the galaxy. And sure, he held his own against Vader and played
the crucial role in ending the Empire but frankly, he’s a bit of a
pantywaist. Would you really count on him to defend you against a
baddie like Jabba the Hutt? Harrison Ford’s rugged charmer Han Solo
would be a much better bet.
Nicolas Cage in Face/Off (1997)
In theory, Nicholas Cage can handle action flicks. (Case in point: The Rock.) On the other hand, as an FBI agent and a criminal mastermind in Face/Off,
is totally laughable. As lame as he is in the latter half of the movie,
playing a good-guy FBI agent, it cannot compare to him as criminal
mastermind Castor Troy in the earlier part. Cage has cool to spare, to
be sure, but you’re supposed to believe him as an Osama Bin
Laden-meets-Al Capone terrorizer? Surely not!
Shaquille O’Neal in Steel (1997)
would seem like the perfect guy to play Steel, a super-hero using a
suit of armor to fight a street gang. After all, he’s massive, pushing
400 lbs and an all-time great athlete. Problem is, everybody knows that
Shaq is every bit the gentle giant off the court. Worse, his most
recent credit prior to this one was playing a goofy rapping genie in
the ridiculous flop Kazaam (1996). One you’ve seen someone levitating in billowy blue pants, there’s really no going back.
Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
the days of Shia LaBeouf: Action Hero are only just beginning! Despite
the fact that his name translates into “the beef,” there’s nothing
beefy about him. As Indiana Jones’ leather-jacket clad son, LaBeouf is
supposed to cut an impressive, rebellious figure, but he just comes off
as a miserable little twerp. Perhaps that’s part of his charm? Michael
Bay sure seems to think so.