10 Worst Action Movies of the Decade

The past decade saw some truly great films, and more then a few of them were in the action genre. However for every winner there are countless losers, and the new millennium had plenty of those as well. The past 10 years saw the rise of over cutting action scenes to the point where it was impossible to follow what was going on. It became so that action movies couldn’t just be good action anymore, and most of the films that tried to add “brains” just made the whole thing somehow stupider. Here’s a look at the lowest of the action movie lows from the last decade.

10) Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

This third entry in a film series that was never that great to begin with saw the Underworld franchise scraping the bottom of the barrel on just about every level. This prequel is set during events that were exhaustively covered in exposition throughout the first two films, as a result any possible tension is gone because those who’ve seen the earlier film already know just about everything that will happen. The dark blue filter that apparently was put on the lens for every foot of film shot renders the whole film extremely dull to look at. The action scenes are somewhat lifeless, largely due to the fact that most of them are between real actors and fake monsters (that look about the worst that they have in the series so far). This recent (and hopefully final) entry in a series that had potential that was never truly realized ended in what is little more than a darkly filmed bogged down mess.

9) Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Given that the Dragonball anime is one of the most popular both in Japan and the US it would seem a natural fit to do a big screen adaptation. The end result however was nothing close to natural. The big problem was that the minds behind this adaptation couldn’t seem to decided if they wanted to retain the outlandishness of the cartoon or go more realistic, the result is a mish mash of action styles all done rather sloppily. While the cartoon is an action show it actually quite static, mostly yelling faces and not so many actual hits being thrown or taken. The movie throws in a little more action but barrows the loud but inert style of the cartoon for the climax with yawn inducing results. The facts that the plot makes almost no sense at all, and that characters are thrown in seemingly at random doesn’t help matters much.

8) Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

This ambitious film promised a true retro experience bringing back the old black and white adventure serials with high flying action and old school thrills. Instead most of the movie was just pixels chasing pixels, in the end that’s pretty much all this CGI overload of a film had to offer. What should have been a strong cast instead floundered, robbed of anything real to interact with and forced to act in front of green screens and react to nothing for the entire film. Jude Law (already suffering from over exposure due to being in 6 movies released that year) stumbles through trying to be heroic but his Sky Captain character just seems to be stupidly lucky rather than actually skilled. Gwyneth Paltrow is beyond grating as the plucky journalist (about the only fun to be had in the movie is when she gets punched out). While the designs do evoke an older time the action is so artificial and static that it fails to be engaging on any level. It’s like watching somebody else play a video game, only less fun.

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7) The Musketeer (2001)

While it was not the first bad action film of the new millennium The Musketeer did hint at many of the problems to come, namely that filmmakers seemed to start to forget how to actually film action scenes. The makers of this film brought in the same fight choreographer who had done such amazing work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And once he’d done his job and provided them with suitably fun yet improbably choreography, director Peter Hyams went about making sure that it was impossible to appreciate the fight choreography. Fight scenes were shot in poor lighting between characters dressed almost identically which meant that at any given moment it was impossible to know which one of the figures the audience was meant to be rooting for. An inept cast of unknown actors also didn’t help (only Tim Roth as the villain salvaged any kind of dignity). This botched take on The Three Musketeers failed to understand anything that was fun about the original story or for that matter anything that works in sword fights.

6) Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li (2009)

1994’s Street Fighter (based on the video game series of the same name) was by no means a good movie. It was however a delightfully campy piece of film that still manages to stand as a guilty pleasure mainly by virtue of the fact that it seems to know how stupid it was. Well somebody decided that what needed to be done with the Street Fighter franchise was to focus more specifically on fewer of the outlandish characters and take it much more seriously. Stripping away any recognizable faces (save for Michael Clark Duncan who should have known better) and draining even the villain of any real fun (turned from a maniacal despot to a real estate scumbag). The fight scenes are just bland and the dismal script ensures that audiences won’t care when a fight starts anyways.

5) Bloodrayne (2005)

Another video game based game, but that in and of itself was not the problem. The problem was the reigning writer/director of truly bad movies that still managed to get a wide release: Uwe Boll. Throughout the past decade this impossibly inept filmmaker has done all but rape the eyes of the world with his video game adaptations. You know a film is terrible when even the stars (Michael Madsen in this case) openly admit to how awful the final product was. This story of a half-vampire out for revenge is sprinkled with notable faces (including Ben Kingsley and Meatloaf) but it’s clear early on that everybody was just there for the paycheck. The best word for the whole affair is simply sloppy, sloppy writing, sloppy action, sloppy camera work and just a sloppy bore of a movie. At this point it’s probably better remembered for the fact the Boll hired real prostitutes instead of actresses for a brothel scene than anything actually redeeming about the film.

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4) Quantum of Solace (2008)

Admittedly the placement of this film may partly be due to bitterness at how badly it squandered everything great about Casino Royal. But while some may argue it shouldn’t be this high it definitely still belongs on this list. The fact that this film failed on so many levels is frankly mind boggling. Casino Royal did all of the hard work of rebooting the James Bond franchise with a new star and a rougher tone and it did so admirably, the follow up should have been a cake walk. Instead the minds behind the movie decided the best thing to do was to ditch all of the charm and swagger of the character and turn him into another generic vengeance seeking rogue in the mold of Jason Bourne. And to make matters worse director Marc Forster decided to try and fully mimic the Bourne series cut heavy shaky came style of shooting. Since it seems that nobody but Bourne director Paul Greengrass can make that style actually work the result were action scenes that were a chore to try to figure out what was even happening rather than any kind of joy to watch. With all other aspects but the action stripped away and the action being so poorly shot and edited we can only hope that this didn’t kill the franchise reboot prematurely.

3) Ultraviolet (2006)

Another film made even worse than it already was by the fact that it was proceeded by a truly great action movie. This was writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s follow up to his under-appreciated action masterpiece Equilibrium. Coming on the heels of such a great action film makes this pile of garbage sting all the more. While his previous film had shown how much could be done with so little (limited sets, minimal special effects, etc) Wimmer flooded this film with needless excess all at the expense of story and character. Vampires once again make the list with this futuristic story in which vampires are a virally infected population being hunted down by the government. Milla Jovovich stars as Violet who after discovering a top secret boy in a suitcase (seriously that’s the plot) stages an assault on those who are oppressing her and people like her. The whole film is basically a series of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” set pieces as envisioned by a 10 year old (example “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a sword fight where the swords were on fire?”). The problem is there’s no flow or reason for any of it. It may have been excusable has the action scenes been presented better. But they’re so hyperactive and narratively disconnected that they can’t stir much more than the tiniest thrill.

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2) Catwoman (2004)

The success of comic book films in recent years has shown that the best thing to do is find a true visionary and a proper film maker to helm the franchise (Chris Nolan for Batman, Bryan Singer for X-Men, Sam Raimi for Spider-man, etc). What Warner Bros. decided to do for the long delayed Catwoman was to hire a French special effects man who was vocal about the fact that he didn’t like the comic books and let him throw out virtually everything that has ever worked about the character. This version of Catwoman bares almost no resemblance whatsoever to the comic book version and instead is a very weak reinvention of Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on Selina Kyle from Batman Returns. For some reason director Pitof (apparently he’s too hip for two names) felt that decking out one of the strongest female characters in comic books like a raver in a gay bar and have her walk as if she’s approaching a stripper pole equaled female empowerment. But what of the action scenes? Well nearly everything was done with CGI, and you’d think with Pitof’s background being effects that at least that would have been alright. Alas that was not the case, the CGI stunts simply looked lifted out of a mediocre video game and never looked even close to real. This was a cat that would have better left in the bag.

1) Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002)

Antonio Banderas and Lucy Lui go head to head as rival trained killers sounds like it least has some mindless entertainment potential. However a script with plot holes big enough to fly a jumbo jet through (since when does the FBI operate in Canada?), actors who’ve simply checked their skills at the door, and action scenes that are not only poorly choreographed and filmed but drag on for interminably long stretches result in what was the single most universally panned film (of any kind) for the last decade. Every other film on this list had at least one or two critics somewhere who thought there was some entertainment value in it. Out of 105 official professional reviews on this film not a single one had anything positive to say. To harp on it anymore is a bit like hitting a punching bag, it’s just too easy. However as an interesting side note the Gameboy Advance video game based on the film was actually well reviewed and fairly popular, thus completing the “what the heck happened here?” story that was this abysmal film.