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Hollywood’s Most Premature Action Stars

To make it big in Hollywood takes countless years of kicking it in the dredges of commercials, direct-to-DVD and low-budget fare that nobody ever sees besides in a Wal-Mart bargain bin. Sometimes, however, famed individuals from other entertainment mediums or other film genres entirely, make the transition to action. Premature can translate to age or to experience, but the result remains the same: a silly wannabe Bruce Willis. Taylor Lautner joins one segment of this special crowd; the buff star of the “Twilight” series leads Abduction this Friday, the 19-year-old's first foray into the solo action world. But he would hardly be the first of his kind. Player Affinity takes a peak over the proverbial crib to look at the top five worst before-their-time action stars.

Shia LaBeouf
As seen in: Eagle Eye, Transformers, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There's a somewhat puzzling but abundant hate that exists for the 25-year-old Los Angeles native, but LaBeouf is a fine young actor that nevertheless jumped – or perhaps grabbed – the gun on the action front. In the "Transformers" trilogy, his character Sam Witwicky is an action star of circumstance and uses his best buddy robots to do his dirty work — not the typical high-octane role. But he's in full leading-man, gun-toting garb in Eagle Eye and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and pulls it off far less believably (especially in scenes like the high-speed chase/sword fight in “Crystal Skull”). LaBeouf adequately speaks to the material that he is given (that is not the most glaring issue), but he also has a boyish countenance that makes it hard to believe he could stand up to a three-story metallic alien. In his brief role in I, Robot as Will Smith’s effective sidekick, he leads a mob armed with baseball bats and tire irons against the amassing robot horde. Let's put it this way: Would you rally behind the kid from Even Stevens?


Wrestlers and Fighters
John Cena, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Gina Carano, Randy Couture, Steve Austin

Although a necessary physical trait in many action settings, physicality can sometimes be the enemy of the shoot-‘em-up star, especially when brawn is solely what that person boasts in terms of credentials. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson proved that the transition can be made (and rather effortlessly at that), but you need charisma and natural screen presence to go along with rippling guns. Johnson's CGI enhanced appearance in The Mummy Returns served as a painfully distracting inclusion and he was still finding his feet in the spinoff, The Scorpion King. His success started a movement by those of all fighting styles, though it was by no means the first. Back in the early '80s, Hulk Hogan made the seamless switch to film playing Thunderlips in Rocky III before transitioning into mainstream film with a string of god-awful kidpics and embarrassing action fare. In the past few years, wrestlers John Cena and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin transported into film, again with disastrous results that include The Marine and 12 Rounds for Cena and The Longest Yard and The Condemned for Austin. Now, with Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, we will see if MMA fighter Gina Carano will make it in the big leagues or be sent back to the octagon.  

Alex Pettyfer
As seen in: Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, I Am Number Four and the upcoming In Time and Overdrive

For the epitomy of age-grounded immaturity in an action lead one only needs to look at the torturously awful Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, an adaptation of a novel of the same name centered on a teenager recruited by MI6. Not only is the premise poor and infinitely silly to begin with, but also the execution is even more atrocious; Pettyfer is not believable and the exercise is so juvenile I cannot even see the target audience appreciating what is on screen. He has since grown up, but the 21-year-old Brit has not become more believable as the ass-kicking, name-taking type. Earlier this year he played a last-of-his-kind alien warrior in I Am Number Four and while that again suffered from being a badly constructed film overall, his shirtless antics and model-level good looks make him look more like a shampoo spokesman lost on set than the star of a tentpole film. Later this year he will star in the Justin Timberlake sci-fi chase film In Time and next year in Overdrive where he will play one of two brothers who are high-profile car thieves forced on the run. The young bloke may show some chops in the years to come, but so far I would prefer it if he just made teen girls swoon in stuff I won't want to see like Beastly.


Pop Stars
Rihanna, Beyonce Knowles, Aaliyah, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake

Essentially the female equivalent of an athlete making the jump, hot-at-the-moment pop stars frequently land roles in film that more often than not contain that all-so-popular action element. Interestingly (for the ladies at least), the characters they portray are usually tough chick roles hoping to prove they are not simply members of the Mickey Mouse Club. Beau of rapper Jay-Z and a mega star herself, Beyonce debuted opposite Mike Myers in the third instalment of the “Austin Powers” series as Foxy Cleopatra, the feisty afro-clad secret agent. She had fun in the role, but it came off as an odd casting choice more than anything else. Queen Latifah got her thief on in Set it Off and singer Aaliyah played the star-crossed lover to Jet Li in Romeo Must Die – both unsophisticated and attention-calling performances. Not to call too much attention to In Time, but Justin Timberlake will try his luck at action star, as will Rihanna in next summer’s mega-budgeted blockbuster Battleship. Only time will tell if they sink or swim.



Topher Grace and Other That '70s Show Alumni
Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher

May I remind everyone this is not exclusively a list of actors who I do not think have skills pertaining to their craft, but rather their choice of role. Topher Grace is a wildly underrated thespian capable of comedy and drama and is an inherently pleasant leading man overall. However, as of late, Grace has tilted towards the fracas with Spider-Man 3, Predators and The Double, which do not seem to suit his boyish demeanor as made famous by That '70s Show. Speaking of that hit show, two other principle cast members have made awkward transitions into action: Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Kutcher, now the new full man on Two and Half Men, has also played a government killer in the aptly named Killers and a U.S. Coast Guard in another plainly titled film, The Guard. Mila Kunis, despite being about ninety pounds soaking wet has nevertheless thrown some punches and squeezed off some rounds in The Book of Eli and Max Payne. All three of these television actors have more or less made the successful transition to film and shown themselves as solid leads. They should stick to comedies and dramas.


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