The Best Performances in Bad Movies: Part One

You ever watch a really bad movie – you know, bad writing, bad direction, bad story, bad characters – and, in amongst it all, there’s just this superb performance that you feel almost bad will be buried under the rest of this tremendous shitheap? Well, we’re digging up some of those performances over the next couple of days, and looking at the best performances in movies that really didn’t deserve them. Without further ado!

  1. Amy Madigan – Streets of Fire

Now, look, I know that Streets of Fire is an objectively awful movie. I get that, I do. Billed as a “Rock and Roll Fable”, it plays out without about the subtlety you’d expect from something touting that moniker: the music is great, the action is killer, and everything else about it – especially the performances – are fucking dire. That all said, it’s one of my favourite movies of all time; yes, it’s ridiculous, yes, I can’t defend it, but yes, I will watch it every rainy day I feel a little depressed until the end of time. And a big part of the reason for that is Amy Madigan as McCoy. An ex-soldier who joins forces with leading man/barely passing humanoid Michael Pare, she’s a character I just fell in love with instantly. A badass, wise-cracking, barely-coded gay, Madigan delivers a swaggeringly charismatic performance in a role that elevates McCoy far above the level of sidekick.

2. LaKeith Standfield – Death Note

I don’t think I can make it much more clear how much I fucking despise Adam Wingard’s take on the classic manga series Death Note – it’s dull, it’s appallingly paced, almost parodically silly. But one thing that the film gets totally right is the casting of L, an iconic super-detective tracking our antihero serial killer Light Yagami Turner as he goes on a supernatural killing spree through the country. Arguably, L was a huge part of what made the original manga series so popular – an odd, idiosyncratic character who never tips over into obvious or overwritten quirk, bringing him to the big screen was always going to be a trial. But, while the rest of the movie flails to find its tone, Stanfield manages to stick the landing with his depiction of L – he’s sinister, sharp, and brings the odd physicality to the role without letting it become campy. It’s honestly tragic to me that this near-perfect take on the character is stuck in this near-disaster of a movie, because I still can’t think of anyone who could do it better.

3. Ewan McGregor – Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Look, I am an apologist for the prequel trilogy, but even I can admit that they are all, objectively, films that are un-good. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about them is the unrealized potential – in Anakin’s story arc, in universe-expansion, in, you know, good dialogue. For me, it’s with Ewan McGregor in the final movie that the most egregious mistakes were made. McGregor seems to understand and embrace the inherent conflict between Anakin and Obi-Wan in this movie, but he’s constantly hampered by ridiculous setpieces, awful dialogue, and a truly appalling acting partnership with Hayden Christensen. I genuinely feel for him in this film, because there could have been a staggeringly good character here – if the rest of the film hadn’t been so intent on bringing it down.

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By Louise MacGregor

(header image via prequelsredeemed.blogspot)



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