WWE Studios: Ranking Its Movies so Far from Best to Worst
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Never mind DreamWorks or Pixar, for wrestling fans, WWE Studios (formerly WWE Films) is the main movie studio in Hollywood.
Well, OK. Maybe not.
But, still, since its creation in 2004, Vince McMahon's side project has churned out almost 20 feature films, all of varying degrees of quality.
One or two have been good and made a ton of money. Some have been famously awful and lost millions. Others have been simply dull and forgettable, sinking without a trace upon their release.
Considering all this, here is a ranking of WWE Studios' films from best to worst.
Kidnapped wives, tough guy Marines, deranged serial killers and Randy Orton threatening to go to the papers...it's all in here.
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The massive success of its low budget serial-killer thriller The Call must have been welcome news to WWE Studios.
The movie, which stars Halle Berry and current wrestling star David Otunga, rocketed to No. 2 on the U.S. box office charts last week, widely surpassing industry expectations and becoming the biggest WWE Studios film ever at the box office (numbers via Box Office Mojo).
No doubt Michael Luisi, the president of WWE Studios, was doing cartwheels in the halls of Titan Towers last weekend when the results came in.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted last week, The Call may have also returned Berry, whose career had been in a lull prior to the film's release, to prominence.
An all-round success, The Call undoubtedly deserves the top spot for best WWE Studios movie for single-handedly turning around the ailing film division and establishing it as a credible name in Hollywood.
2007's The Condemned is a pleasant surprise. An action-packed extravaganza that makes the most of Steve Austin's charisma, it's one of the best movies WWE has ever been involved with.
The film has a very simple concept: A group of highly dangerous death row inmates from all over the world, including Austin, are kidnapped by a crazed billionaire and dropped onto an exotic island in the middle of nowhere. They are then instructed to fight one another to the death for the entertainment of a global Internet audience.
Think of it as a nastier, more brutal version of The Hunger Games. Both also borrow heavily from Japanese cult classic Battle Royale.
Sadly, The Condemned didn't exactly do the same numbers at the box office that The Hunger Games did, but it's still a great overlooked little movie.
Cross Die Hard with a Vengeance with Speed, and the result is 12 Rounds, a better-than-usual John Cena action flick.
Likely thanks to the director, acclaimed filmmaker Renny Harlin, 12 Rounds has a gloss, stylishness and intelligence that most WWE Studios films have lacked. Watching the movie, it feels like a big deal and something that a great deal of time and effort went into.
It's also one of the few times Cena has shown any real potential as an action star. He's actually pretty good as Danny Fisher, a by-the-rules cop targeted by a criminal madman and forced to spring into action to save the woman he loves.
The Marine 2
By straight-to-DVD standards, The Marine 2 is actually very good. Oh, the wooden Ted DiBiase struggles mightily in the lead role (who thought casting him was a good idea?), but apart from that, it's a very entertaining and well-made movie.
Gorgeously filmed by veteran director Roel Reine, the stunningly beautiful Thailand location is a nice departure from the gloomy, grimy settings these movies tend to have.
It's also impeccably well-choreographed, with the film's numerous fight scenes having a great deal of realism to them. It may not have had anything close to the budget its predecessor had, but its significantly better on almost every level.
The Marine 3: Homefront
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A surprise hit on DVD and Blu-Ray when it was released earlier this month, The Marine 3: Homefront is an enjoyable, compelling action movie filled with great performances and memorable characters, most notably Neal McDonough's anti-corporate extremist, Jonas Pope.
The Miz also churns out a very respectable performance as emotionally troubled Marine Jake Carter, carrying the movie through its (occasionally) ludicrous plot. Steven Seagal, move over. There's a new action star in town.
That's What I Am
Coming-of-age drama That's What I Am is a rarity for WWE Studios in that it was critically acclaimed upon its release, with most writers praising the intelligent script and Ed Harris' award-worthy lead performance as a brave middle-school teacher fighting against intolerance and hatred in '60s America.
Sadly, for all the good in this film, it is probably destined to be remembered by WWE fans for that line, uttered by supporting actor Randy Orton near the end.
photo from SlantMagazine.com
"They have a hostage! It's my wife!"
And thus began the WWE Studios tradition of the hero having to save a woman close to him from bad guys. (The Marine 2, The Marine 3: Homefront, 12 Rounds, The Chaperone and upcoming film 12 Rounds: Reloaded all have some sort of variation of this plot line.)
Aside from a superb performance from villain Robert Patrick, The Marine isn't very good. It's dull, insultingly predictable and Cena shows about as much personality on screen as a plank of wood. Indeed, as noted, its sequels are far superior.
But, as The Numbers reveals, it did make a ton of money at the box office and on DVD. In fact, prior to The Call's release, it was the best-performing WWE film ever.
Dead Man Down
Crime thriller Dead Man Down was praised by many film critics when it was released earlier this month for its strong performances, sense of atmosphere and complex script.
Alas, movie audiences didn't respond to it warmly at all, judging by its mediocre box office numbers. If Wade Barrett, who has a small supporting role in the flick, really does want a film career, he might have to star in a few other movies first. Because Dead Man Down certainly won't do it for him.
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Credit should go to WWE Studios for at least thinking outside the box with 2012's The Day. A gloomy, deeply depressing post-apocalyptic thriller, The Day is a significant departure from the formulaic action movies and cheesy comedies that Vince McMahon's film division has become known for.
Sadly, the film sank without a trace at the box office, but hey, at least WWE tried something different.
Bending the Rules
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As anyone who has seen Syfy show Haven can tell you, retired WWE wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland is, in fact, a very good actor. Certainly, he's made the transition into acting better than most wrestlers have.
Alas, his natural talents were woefully wasted in the lame, low-budget buddy-cop comedy Bending the Rules. No doubt Copeland wishes he could erase this debacle from his resume.
photo from dreadcentral.com
Emmy award winner Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) filmed Barricade, a forgettable psychological horror film, for WWE Studios last year. Did anyone see this movie? Or know it existed?
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Focusing on three troubled siblings forced to put aside their differences and go into the bounty-hunting business together, The Reunion is a fairly disappointing affair.
There's the potential for comedy there, with the talented Amy Smart and Ethan Embry in supporting roles, but it's never really capitalized. Nor is it terribly exciting from an action-movie point of view, either, even when the brothers head down to Mexico to rescue a kidnapped billionaire.
Cena, playing a cop (huge departure there), pretty much phones it in, too.
Even a fantastic central performance from Patricia Clarkson ("I want my son back but I still don't know how!") can't save this dismal Lifetime-esque family drama.
Cena attempts dramatic acting for the first time and fails miserably. Yes, it turns out saving beautiful blond women from evil villains really is his ceiling as a thespian.
It doesn't help that he is so much larger than his co-stars physically it borders on comedic. In his scenes with the tiny Clarkson, in particular, it looks like the actress is interacting with The Incredible Hulk or something.
Cheesy and sentimental, Legendary often feels like a bad parody of a high school sports movie rather than anything that's real.
Occasionally, you can even catch a sad-looking Danny Glover thinking to himself, "I've gone from classic films like Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple to this?"
Mr. Glover: Get a new agent.
Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia
A rather dull, by-the-numbers straight-to-DVD action movie, Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia lacks the corny charm of the Marine films (no wives even get kidnapped or anything!), nor can it really live up to the first two entertaining Behind Enemy Lines movies.
A bad John McClane-wannabe performance by Ken Kennedy (now Ken Anderson in TNA) doesn't help matters.
See No Evil
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OK, so no one was expecting WWE Studios to release an intelligent horror film on par with Scream or Cabin in the Woods, but 2006's See No Evil is still a rotten effort by any standards.
Come on, how can Kane as an eye-gouging axe-murderer hunting down annoying and bratty teenagers under orders from his deranged mom not be entertaining in some way? But yet this joyless, formulaic movie manages it.
See No Evil should have been a camp comedy classic. Instead it's a mediocre Z movie you might half-watch when it's on the Syfy channel at 2 a.m. one morning and you can't sleep and nothing else is on.
So, Triple H gets out of jail and wants to change his ways. He wants to reconnect with his family and be a normal, law-abiding citizen again. But, sadly, criminal elements keep trying to drag him back into his old life.
As you shall see, this happens to Triple H a lot in movies.
WWE may have been hoping that 2010 family comedy The Chaperone would appeal to the child audience. Hey, maybe it would have if it weren't, you know, totally awful and unfunny in every way. As it is, Pixar doesn't exactly have anything to worry about.
The whole thing is made even worse when you realize that Stephen Herek, directer of comedy classic Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, was the man in charge here.
Man, how bad was the script if even he couldn't make it remotely funny?
Inside Out sees Triple H star as A.J., a remorseful man who is released from prison after a lengthy stint and wants to turn his life around, only to find himself getting dragged back into the criminal underworld.
Hey, doesn't this sound a little familiar?
Triple H has gotten out of jail more than Lindsay Lohan.
Is "I've gotten out of jail and want to change" the new "They kidnapped my wife!" or something? Will there be another movie were Triple H is released from prison only (swerve!) this time he doesn't want to change and will just continue committing crimes left and right?
A deathly dull "drama" with practically no redeeming features, even talented actors like Parker Posey (Superman Returns, A Mighty Wind) and Bruce Dern (Django Unchained, Monster) can't make Inside Out watchable. Why WWE thought doing an art movie was a good idea is beyond me.
The Big Show (aka Paul Wight) is actually a tremendous actor. Check out his heart-breaking reaction when he accidentally crashed into AJ Lee and sent her to the hospital last year. Sadly, with 2010's Knucklehead, WWE gave him absolutely nothing to work with.
Lame, unfunny and full of cringe-worthy moments, Knucklehead comes off like John Cena's promo writer got drunk with Vince McMahon and Brian Gerwitz one weekend and they frantically scribbled down every bad joke they could think of (Big Show hits his head on things a lot! He has toilet problems and stinks up the place!) into a half-ready script.
Truthfully, there's nothing that can be said about the awfulness of this film that the trailer doesn't get across.
Did anyone but Vince McMahon find this film entertaining?