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2016's Best Performances In Bad Movies

By Rebecca Pahle | Seriously Random Lists | December 27, 2016 |


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A movie may be a fetid pile of trash without every part of it being a fetid pile of trash. The latest in our series of year-end lists: best performances in bad movies. Yes, Eva Green is on it. Like you even needed to ask.

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Eva Green, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Look, as long as Eva Green was in a movie in any given year, chances are she’s earned a spot on that year’s “best performances in bad movies” list. Green’s career is marked by a tendency to alternate between low-budget indie fare—like Cracks, Perfect Sense, and The Dreamers—and supporting roles in big-budget Hollywood movies that… hmm, how shall I put this?… tend to suck. There’s the odd creative success, like her breakout role in 2006’s Casino Royale, but more often than not “best part of a bad movie” is kind of Eva Green’s thing. Oh, hello, Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For… the list goes on. And it got a new entry this year courtesy of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, in which the perfectly cast Green got her kook on as the headmistress of a boarding school for quirky X-Men. The movie, though not awful, was exceedingly forgettable, with Green’s bird-like mannerisms and sublime, PG-13 friendly edge (She murders people. Off-screen, but still.) providing rare points of interest. —Rebecca Pahle

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John Malkovich, Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon is by no means a terrible movie. It’s… there. If the Patriots Day trailers aren’t doing it for you but you still want a 2016 Peter Berg-directed, Mark Wahlberg-starring movie about a recent real-life tragedy, Deepwater exists. And all the performances are fine: Gina Rodriguez is charismatic and wears a leather jacket, Kurt Russell is a got-damn professional, and Marky Mark has the “salt o’ the earth savior” thing down by now. But the standout is John Malkovich as the villainous BP representative willing to disregard safety regulations on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to make a quick buck. Put aside all your opinions about Berg, Wahlberg, and their earnest tributes to/cynical exploitation of recent tragedies (circle where applicable)… this is a movie where a snarling, heavy Louisiana-accent sporting Malkovich says things like “No mud. No flow. We gots. To go.” The performance is a return to his ’80s/’90s over-the-top action movie villain days, and every second of it is glorious.—Rebecca Pahle

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Matt Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
I have made no secret of the fact that I have capital-O Opinions on Jane Austen movies, so I came out of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seething. Not that I’m against the zombie-fication of Jane Austen’s most beloved work on principle or anything. I’m ride or die for Clueless. I’m no purist. But Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, directed by Burr Steers, is a fried slice of terrible. Dull all around, and on top of that Sam Riley is an atrocious Darcy (leather-clad, moody badass? Bitch, please) and Lena Headey doesn’t get a fight scene despite playing a legendary zombie-killer. What are you doing, movie? There are a pair of performances, though, that make Pride and Prejudice and Zombies if not good, at least intermittently watchable. Those belong to Jack Huston as George Wickham (the character’s pretty cardboard, but Huston is charismatic enough to carry it. It’s fine.) and Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. Collins is by his nature a socially oblivious, perpetually mansplaining doofus, but Smith imbues him with almost a kind of goofy sweetness. It’s an interesting take on the character, and one that gives PPZsome much-needed lightness and comedy.—Rebecca Pahle

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Gal Gadot, Batman v Superman
If there was one bright spot in Batman v Superman, it was the Jolly Rancher scene the fact that the DCU at least got Wonder Woman right. I thoroughly believe that Gal Gadot is great in BvS in spite of director Zack Snyder, not because of him—the standout part of her performance was that she actually seemed to enjoy fighting, which you know “manpain and bat farts” Snyder didn’t come up with. It makes me hopeful for the Wonder Woman movie, and hey, being cautiously optimistic about a DC movie has never gone wrong.—Rebecca Pahle

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Viola Davis, Will Smith, Jai Courtney, and Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is an anomaly on this list, because it’s a movie that managed to suck hardcore despite a healthy handful of really great performances. (Sit down, Jared Leto, you weren’t one of them.) Jai Courtney, playing booze-swilling Aussie villain Captain Boomerang, is genuinely funny in a way that makes me look forward to his turn in the upcoming Wet Hot American Summer sequel show. (He’s playing Amy Poehler’s love interest.) Margot Robbie is a pitch-perfect Harley Quinn, Will Smith as always shows up and does his damn job like the movie star he is, and Viola Davis is exponentially scary than Juggalo Joker as the cold-blooded Amanda Waller. Just a shame the movie sucked.—Rebecca Pahle

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Frank Grillo, The Purge: Election Year
The third movie in the Purge series wasn’t much of anything, and most of the performances in it are actively bad, but God damn if I won’t watch Frank Grillo stride around in a blood-stained suit shooting people in the face anytime, anyplace.—Rebecca Pahle

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Mark Rylance, The BFG
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, like its title character, is kind of an earnest, galumphing mess—it’s very sweet, and parts of it are very emotionally affecting, but the plot and pacing are all over the place, and the first and second halves honestly feel like completely different movies. One thing I can’t dredge up any complaints on, though, is Mark Rylance’s mo-capped performance as the big-hearted BFG. Rylance’s hopeful, awed facial expressions whenever someone’s actually nice to him—he’s the runt of the litter who’s been bullied his whole life—will break your shriveled, black heart.—Rebecca Pahle

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Chadwick Boseman, Gods of Egypt
The massively budgeted misfire from The Crow director Alex Proyas was whitewashed and lackluster, bonkers yet boring. But one of its few bright spots came in the form of a side-eye shooting know-it-all god with a big brain and even bigger biceps. Boseman seemed to be the only actor who got he was in an irredeemably cheesy movie. And he rolled into his roll with relish, spitting snark and flashing that bright smile. Then they steal his brain. Because this movie couldn’t even let it’s one attribute shine on until the final credits.—Kristy Puchko

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Garrett Hedlund, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee’s anti-war drama is so jarring and strange I pondered if it was bad on purpose. Regardless, its undeniable standout was Garrett Hedlund as the abrasive yet debonair head of the lauded Bravo Company. “Hedlund was angry and alive, bristling with a rage that popped off the screen and made otherwise dull scenes spark. As I watched, I thrilled over the discovery of this exhilarating new talent, then saw the credits and realized this is one of those ingendudes Hollywood has been trying to make a thing for years. Maybe it’s not these seemingly interchangeable dudes who are the problem; maybe it really is lame leading roles. With the bite of a supporting character, Hedlund stole this movie.”—Kristy Puchko

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Michael Sheen, Passengers
Message-wise and romance-wise (and story-wise and logic-wise), this sci-fi thriller/rape culture love letter is a shit show. But amid so much WTF and grotesquerie, there’s the lovable Michael Sheen as an android bartender who is all gears below the waist, but all charm above! Ever the giver, he even gifted us the above gif, which aptly represents how we all felt learning about the film’s abominable premise, slyly hid amid its “high-throttle romance” brand of marketing.—Kristy Puchko

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Ariane Labed, Assassin’s Creed
This movie is like those dreams you have while falling asleep in class. They’re kind of bland because that droning lecture about history and Knights Templar and aggression-related genomes is seeping through, while your brain is trying to come up with something fun, like blade-slinging killers out to covertly save humanity. Like those dreams, this movie is a mess of snarled logic and boring blather. Yet Labed—with her sharp eyes and sneering delivery—managed to bring a bit of bite to the time travel sequences as a selfless assassin with a look that’s both intruging and intimidating. I like the cut of her jib. I don’t know her character’s name or much beyond her being the badass that fought alongside long ago Fassbender. But every time she showed up, I had a fleeting hope this video game movie might not be so bad after all. It still was tho. —Kristy Puchko

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Emma Stone, La La Land
It’s cute, gang. But this tale of two lovers in Los Angeles chasing their dreams is so self-satisfied and easy that its intense Oscar buzz has made it fester further for me. I do maintain for all its faults, Stone is delightful, earnest and vibrant. He final monologue/song even got this La La Land detractor tearing up in the penultimate number. But if Annette Bening loses her Oscar to Stone over this, I’m going to throw a total tantrum. And not the cute dancing kind. The kind where glass gets smashed. But that’ll still be catchier than La La Lands’ soundtrack. Don’t @ me.—Kristy Puchko




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