While watching Salt, the new spy thriller from Clear and Present Danger director Phillip Noyce and Equilibrium scribe Kurt Wimmer, I couldn’t help but think how nothing about the film was plausible. From stem to stern, Salt is a masterclass in the absurd. The only thing remotely realistic about the entire production is that it is set on the planet Earth — and even that is suspect considering the sheer amount of inhuman things Angelina Jolie’s character, Evelyn Salt, does throughout the movie. She performs acrobatic feats that would make Spider-Man jealous while taking beatings brutal enough to make Superman bruise. But no matter what happens to her, Salt gets right back on her espionage horse like it was little more than a mild day at the gym.
Now there’s nothing wrong with the characters of action movies being able to do things no ordinary person would be capable of — that’s the entire allure of action movies, after all — but the stars who are tasked with bringing those characters to life need to look just remotely capable of doing a tenth of the things they do on screen. And as talented of an actress she is, Angelina Jolie just does not scream “action ass-kicker” to me these days. She’s still gorgeous, sure, but she’s also still in the waif-like state she was in for Wanted, another action movie in which she was required to shoot guns that looked as though they’d break every bone in her arms as soon as she pulled the trigger. Until she looks like a stiff breeze won’t shatter her wrists, Jolie is just too unbelievable as an action star. And that got me thinking: What other femmes just do not belong in the movies in which they’re cast?
Kristin Kreuk – Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is a bad movie no matter how you cut the deck. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have cast anyone other then Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk as Chun Li. Not only does she look nothing like the part — she’s too tiny; Chun Li’s thighs alone have more muscle than Kreuk has in her entire body — but she’s also just a bad actress. Her cuteness may cut it on the CW, but not on the big screen; not when she sports the exact same look of consternation in every single shot. Plus, on a physical level alone, Kreuk is about as threatening as a sleeping kitten.
So who should’ve played Chun Li in the latest Street Fighter? I’d have gone with Kelly Hu. Sure, she doesn’t strictly look Chinese, but she more than makes up for it with a commanding screen presence. I think she caught the eye of many a fanboy when she played Lady Deathstrike in X2: X-Men United, but the one film that really shows off how much ass she can believably kick is The Tournament. It sadly went straight to DVD here in the States, but that movie is brutal as hell and Hu holds her own as a martial artist throughout the entire thing — something I doubt will ever be said of Kreuk.
Denise Richards – The World Is Not Enough
Okay, so Denise Richards’ character, Dr. Christmas Jones, in The World is Not Enough isn’t exactly an action star — she plays a scientist-cum-Bond girl — but she is still required to run from explosions, shoot at bad guys, and pretend she understands everything that’s going on while the villain tries to destroy the world. Thing is, every time the Wild Things and Starship Troopers hottie opens her mouth, it sounds like she’s reciting her dialogue for the first time ever. This isn’t just a case of an actress being too dainty for her physically demanding role, either (she’s fine in Starship Troopers). This is just a case of a bad performance.
Who else could have taken up the Bond-girl mantle in 1999 instead of Richards? Just about anyone, really. The franchise had more or less devolved into a series of one-liners by that point, so it’s not as though it needed to have a super-serious Bond girl; it just needed a hottie of the times capable of acting like anything but a deer in headlights. I’d have gone for Rose McGowan.
Tara Reid – Alone in the Dark
Granted Alone in the Dark only half counts as an action movie, but it also only half counts as a movie at all. This is Uwe Boll at his drinking-game worse, taking a recognizable survival horror video game and turning it into a barely competent jumble of gunfire and occupying dark spaces while bad CGI looms all around. But even though it’s just a bad movie, the worst part of it has got to be Tara Reid as the most brilliant anthropologist in the world. Sure, she could also go on a list of Miscast Professions, but here she looks just as alien trying to hold an action pose as she does trying to read a book.
There are a ton of actresses I’d have rather seen in the part, but we also have to be realistic about it. Even before he became a punchline, a role in Uwe Boll film wasn’t exactly something to be coveted, so that rules out a bunch of possibilities. Doesn’t matter, though, because my favorite B-movie starlett of that era, Kari Wuhrer, probably would have been happy to take the gig. She’s a great looking gal and a charming actress, but most importantly she actually looks like she could run for more than 90 seconds before calling for a PA to bring her cigarettes and vodka.
Mila Kunis – Max Payne
I like Mila Kunis, I really do. Not just because she’s a gorgeous geek girl, either. She’s actually a fun, talented actress with great comedic chops. She’s just not an action star. She’s too teenytiny for it to ever look badass. I actually prefer her casting even less in Book of Eli than in Max Payne, but at least in the former she can get a pass because the character isn’t supposed to be a ruthless killer. But in Max Payne she plays Mona Sax, a leather-coat twirling, dual-machine gun wielding assassin who is supposed to be even tougher than the dude the movie is titled after. Unfortunately she’s just too adorable to make it work.
A role like this needs to go to someone with a bit more physical presence. Kunis isn’t a bad actresses, she’s just physically wrong for these kind of roles. Someone with a bit more height and a bit more muscle should have been cast. It was a perfect role for a gal like Famke Janssen. Not only is she a dead ringer for Sax as depicted in the game, but she can do the whole spray-the-machine gun face with the best of them (as evidenced by Goldeneye).
Halle Berry – Catwoman
I know I should not go against whatever God saw fit to put Halle Berry in a shredded leather outfit, but she just does not belong in Catwoman. I know a big reason she took the role was because she wanted to play a comic book character who got her own movie, but I just wish it was any role but Catwoman. That’s a character that needs to be fiercely sexual and inherently strong when she’s in the suite (which was hideous and didn’t do any favors for her stale performance), but that edge was just completely absent in Berry. It’s almost as though you can see her regret for having taken the role the entire team. She never lets loose, never completely gives in to the personality she’s supposed to be bringing to life.
If it had been 10 years earlier, I’d actually suggest that that film’s villain, Sharon Stone, would have made for a great Catwoman. Not so much in 2004, though, which is why I’d opt to go for someone like Keira Knightley. She’s got an almost cat-like beauty to her to begin with, but she also has proven she is an actress who is completely willing to dive into tight outfits and start kicking the crap out of some men. Now if only we could have also done something about the Catwoman outfit, which is about as unsexy as a comic-based character’s outfit can get.