2018 is already half-way done, and while it generally hasn’t been a milestone year for movies – yet, at least – there have nevertheless been a ton of great performances well worthy of your attention.
And then there have been those performances that, for want of a better phrase, absolutely sucked.
These 12 performances represent the most effortless, lazy, phoned-in, irritating, misguided and poorly thought-out acting in major Hollywood movies this year (so far).
Some of the performances simply left audiences sad that talented actors were wasting their talents on cynical schlock, while other turns felt genuinely ill-conceived from a casting standpoint, or in the case of a certain child performance in a certain blockbuster earlier this year, showed a director fatally out of their depth.
There are sure to be many more awful performances over the next six months, but as it stands right now, these are the laughably bad and headache-inducingly boring, Razzie-worthy performances to “beat”…
12. Adam Sandler (The Week Of)
While on one hand Adam Sandler gets to consistently crank out movies for Netflix these days without having to worry about silly things like that opening weekend at the box office, he sure does look depressed doing it.
The Week Of sees Sandler playing Kenny Lustig, a man whose daughter is imminently due to get married, causing him to clash with the well-off father of the groom (Chris Rock).
You’d think the Sandler-Rock pairing would be good for a few chuckles, but Sandler sleepwalks his way through this 116-minute slog – and Rock’s not much better, honestly – and seems like he wishes he was literally anywhere else but the movie’s set.
The emotional beats both sad and funny don’t land, and in addition to the gutter-level script, Sandler’s soporific performance is a big part of the reason why. He’s proven repeatedly in the past that he’s got talent to spare, yet he’s seemingly more content churning out these low-effort “comedies”. Jeez.
11. Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)
Likeable, well-written characters aren’t exactly easy to come by in the latest Jurassic Park movie, but nobody has earned more ire from fans than Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the petrified techie who Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) brings with her to Isla Nublar during Fallen Kingdom’s first-act rescue mission.
Granted, the character is so irritating as written that Smith didn’t really stand a chance, but that does little to ease the fact that his shrieking, grating performance actively works against director J.A. Bayona’s noble attempt to make sense of the film’s generally dreadful screenplay.
When a supposedly “good” character has the audience actively rooting for their demise, you know something’s gone horribly wrong at several levels. The material blows, but Smith also plays up to Franklin’s irritable qualities rather than gently rein them in.
10. Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades Freed)
It’s been a consistent thread through the Fifty Shades trilogy that Dakota Johnson gives a charmingly awkward performance that seems to hint at her own awareness that these movies are awful, while her screen partner Jamie Dornan instead approximates a sentient block of wood.
Fifty Shades Freed, by far the silliest of the three movies, once again forces Dornan to make Christian Grey a self-serious, moping bore, and once again, he lives down to expectations by mining not the least scrap of humour from the daft role.
Whether he’s creepily telling Ana (Johnson) what to do, licking ice cream from her thigh or crying for the first time in years, Dornan never makes Christian more than a hollow, dull husk of a character.
9. Scott Eastwood (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Scott Eastwood plays surly pilot trainer Nate Lambert in this movie for basically one reason: he’s the handsome-as-hell offspring of Clint Eastwood.
Otherwise, Eastwood Jr. gives a totally flat performance void of even the faintest hint of charisma. He’s pleasant to look at, sure, but his banter with the decidedly more charming Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) feels awkwardly forced, alongside a love triangle involving the pair and colleague Jules (Adria Arjona).
Uprising as a whole is a total mess, and Eastwood seems to have been cast solely to make the movie more appealing to teenage girls. Given the movie’s paltry box office take, though, it seemed to backfire spectacularly.
8. Deric McCabe (A Wrinkle In Time)
Look, it’s never fun to criticise child actors for their performances: they’re young, they’re still learning, and if they don’t have a skilled director to guide them through the process, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising when they turn in wonky results.
Deric McCabe’s performance as protagonist Meg’s (Storm Reid) precocious younger brother Charles Wallace, however, is pretty much a note-perfect lesson in what child actors shouldn’t do.
From his overly mannered, eerily adult tone of speaking to his grating, high-pitched voice, pretty much everything he says is offputting in one way or another.
The fact that – spoilers, if you somehow care – Charles Wallace ends up becoming the movie’s “villain” in act three only makes matters worse, as young McCabe’s attempts to be menacing and fierce are, well, laughable.
Director Ava DuVernay should shoulder a decent amount of the blame here for sure, though honestly, the casting director is who really buggered this one up.
7. Helen Mirren (Winchester)
Helen Mirren is one of the finest actors of her generation and so rarely gives a bad performance that she ends up being the saving grace of many a terrible movie.
Sadly that isn’t the case at all in her dreadfully dull low-budget horror film Winchester. Mirren plays Sarah Winchester, the widow of the famed Winchester gunmaker who finds herself being haunted by the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles.
It’s not a terrible premise for a horror movie by any means, and Mirren seems well-cast…except for the fact that she can’t do a southern American drawl to save her life.
Mirren’s attempt at a deep south accent is painfully distracting every time she opens her mouth, and a rare genuinely bad performance from an actress who spends a good deal of her time classing-up movies that don’t deserve her. This one hurts.
6. Johnny Depp (Sherlock Gnomes)
Sherlock Gnomes is for the most part an animated offering so instantly forgettable that nothing even sticks in the mind long enough to be considered genuinely bad.
Except for Johnny Depp’s mumbling, catatonic vocal rendition of the titular gnome detective, which he presumably phoned-in from one of his rented homes while having his Sunday morning breakfast.
It’s a quintessential paycheck role if there ever was one, with Depp tearing through his lines like he’s late for an appointment elsewhere. Given Depp’s talent and larger-than-life appeal, he was the movie’s single chance to be anything more than dull and soulless. Mission failed.
5. Jared Leto (The Outsider)
Jared Leto’s Netflix crime thriller about an American prisoner of war (Leto) who worms his way into the Yakuza is a shockingly inept bore, headed up by Leto’s misfire of a performance.
Leto is clearly trying to play the lead role as brooding and subdued, but as exacerbated by the painstaking pacing and interest-free script, he looks more like he’s in desperate need of a nap most of the time.
There are other issues to consider, such as the inevitable “whitewashing” accusations that emerged on the eve of the movie’s release, especially as Tadanobu Asano’s supporting gangster character was infinitely more interesting and clearly should’ve been the protagonist.
Leto catches a lot of flak for his performance as The Joker in Suicide Squad, but has brings a lot to the table when the project is right. This ill-conceived, miserable two-hour slog just isn’t one of them.
4. Bruce Willis (Death Wish)
Can someone check in on Bruce Willis? He hasn’t starred in a genuinely good film since 2012’s Looper, proving increasingly reliant on straight-to-video tosh in order to support his lifestyle.
Though Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake nobody asked for did in fact get a theatrical release, you’d hardly know from watching it, given the low-rent construction, unfussed performances and how utterly pained Willis seems to be while starring in it.
The script and direction have plenty of problems on their own, but Willis genuinely looks like he was slipped a few Ambien before shooting started, looking completely checked out for every single one of the movie’s 107 minutes.
At least Brucie has M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass hitting screens early next year, which just might be good enough to tempt him to actually emote.
3. James Franco (Future World)
If you haven’t heard of Future World, don’t feel bad. The James Franco-directed post-apocalyptic straight-to-VOD Mad Max ripoff is everything you’d expect from that designation, topped by a risible performance from Franco himself.
It’s a classic case of an actor dialling things up to 11 and still not doing much of interest. It’s especially embarrassing as Franco obviously had total control over the production and still didn’t give himself a particularly ripe part.
In fact, the only actor in the entire movie to truly escape unscathed is Milla Jovovich, whose roaring-for-the-cheap-seats performance is one of the few meritorious aspects of this woefully undercooked low-fi grindhouse homage.
Coming so soon after Franco’s wonderful work as actor-director on The Disaster Artist, this couldn’t feel like much more of a polar opposite showing.
2. Will Arnett (Show Dogs)
Will Arnett, who hurt you? Or rather, how badly did The Lego Batman Movie and the new season of Arrested Development pay that you needed to sell your soul to star in this talking dogs trainwreck?
Quite possibly the worst film of the year and certainly the worst thing Arnett has ever appeared in – even The Nut Job has this licked – his performance as human protagonist Frank, a cop who teams up with a police dog, seems half-embarrassed, half-bored.
At least he’s able to spend a decent amount of the movie off-screen while the CGI-manipulated dogs do their thing, but it’s still a dignity-annihilating performance, and with a mere $5.5 million budget, there’s no way it paid him enough to be worthwhile.
1. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler & Alek Skarlatos (The 15:17 To Paris)
And finally, we have a trio of performances sullied by director Clint Eastwood’s insistence to cast the real-life subjects as themselves.
15:17 to Paris is Eastwood’s thoroughly underwhelming dramatisation of Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos’ involvement in heroically stopping the 2015 Thalys train attack, with them re-enacting the incident wholesale for the movie.
There’s no doubting the heroism of the three American men, but that doesn’t mean they should’ve ever been put in a position to act in a Hollywood movie.
It’s a bold move that fails spectacularly here because the three man have no natural acting instincts to speak of, and almost every second of their time on screen seems overly mannered, as is a common faux pas for amateur actors.
Just casting three lesser-known actors to play the three would’ve eliminated one of the movie’s nagging problems right out of the gate, but instead having them appear as themselves simply piles more embarrassment on top of a project already swimming it.
Come on, Clint. You’re better than glorified marketing gimmicks like this.