Every year, hundreds of movies are released into theaters. Some are major releases that play on thousands of screens. Some are smaller independent productions that show mostly in a handful of big city arthouse cinemas. Then there are the "specialty" movies -- like foreign films, documentaries, and things with very specific niche appeal -- that might only play in five or fewer theaters in the whole country. The point is, you couldn't remember each and every one of these movies if you tried.
Forgetting a film that barely got released is totally understandable. Things become more interesting when you think about the major releases that somehow fade from memory. These movies enjoy wide distribution, big-budget promotional campaigns, and a ton of advance hype. Studios spend millions of dollars to get them on your radar, and to make you remember that they're playing at a theater near you. Despite all that, some of them vanish from your brain almost as soon as they vanish from cinemas.
With this in mind, we've put together the following list of twenty-five action movies you may well have completely forgotten about. They're not even that old. All of them were released between the years of 2000 and 2009.
Nothing here is obscure. Each of these films is populated with big-name stars. They received nationwide theatrical releases. They were absolutely on your radar at the time. For varying reasons, which we'll dig into, they just didn't make any sort of lasting impression.
Here are 25 Forgettable '00s Action Movies Only Superfans Remember.
25 Bulletproof Monk
Mixing action and comedy is a tricky proposition. Done right, it can yield classics like Midnight Run or Hot Fuzz. Done wrong, it delivers fluff like Bulletproof Monk.
Chow Yun-Fat plays a Tibetan monk mentoring a goofball thief (Seann William Scott) in how to protect an important ancient scroll. Of course, there's also someone trying to steal the scroll, so that gives them an enemy to fight.
You might think a team-up between the two leads would make offbeat magic.
Unfortunately, Bulletproof Monk never finds the right balance for its elements, meaning it's never particularly exciting or funny, but it is definitely forgettable.
Three years after his breakout role in Step Up, Channing Tatum made a bid for action stardom with Fighting. The title tells you pretty much everything you need to know. He plays a guy who gets lured into the world of bare-knuckle fighting. Terrence Howard co-stars as the con artist who provides him entrance.
Although Tatum is charismatic as always and the beatdowns are appropriately brutal, Fighting's plot, which is kind of a light version of Fight Club, isn't strong enough to sustain a nearly two-hour running time.
Consequently, the movie limped out of theaters with just $23 million in North America.
Unlike most movies on this list, Wanted is considered somewhat successful. It made $134 million at the North American box office and received generally good reviews. Despite that, a lot of people seem to have trouble remembering what, exactly, it was about.
Everyone remembers the "curving bullets," but do you recall the actual plot?
If not, it's about an unhappy office worker (James McAvoy) who gets drafted into a secret society of assassins called the Fraternity by the mysterious Fox (Angelina Jolie).
Once in, he discovers that his late father was a member, and that the Fraternity has a bunch of dark secrets, which he sets about uncovering.
22 Romeo Must Die
Romeo Must Die is a 2000 action picture that brings together martial arts legend Jet Li and two popular music artists from the early '00s.
He plays a former police officer investigating the murder of his brother. That causes him to cross paths with a club owner, played by rapper DMX, and a record store owner, played by late R&B singer Aaliyah.
Although it did respectable, if unremarkable business, Romeo Must Die has largely been forgotten, thanks to action sequences that are too choppily edited to generate real thrills. A frequently slow plot does nothing to help on that count, nor does DMX's stiff performance.
Domino was supposed to be a big deal when it came out in 2005. It was based on the true story of a former model who became a bounty hunter.
Star Keira Knightley was hot off the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It was directed by Tony Scott, the man behind such box office hits as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and True Romance.
Audiences were turned off by the director's emphasis on visual style over substance.
Although Domino looked great, it did surprisingly little with the tale of its real-life central figure. The excessive violence was a turn-off, as well.
Some thought the movie would eventually achieve cult status, but it has yet to happen.
20 The Tuxedo
With a movie as mind-blowingly bizarre as The Tuxedo, it's kind of weird that most people don't remember it.
Jackie Chan plays a bumbling chauffeur who becomes a master of martial arts after putting on a special gizmo-filled tuxedo that has been created by the government. He then fills in for a hospitalized spy, going after a group of villains with plans for world domination.
That's a goofy plot. Just as goofy is that The Tuxedo teams Chan with Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is cast as an up-and-coming spy. They don't have much spark, and the movie isn't as heavy on the crazy action as Chan's earlier films were.
19 A Man Apart
Along with xXx and The Pacifier, Vin Diesel has starred in the blockbuster hit Fast and Furious series. One of his biggest duds is A Man Apart, a 2003 action drama in which he plays Sean Vetter, a DEA agent hot on the heels of a drug kingpin named Diablo (Timothy Olyphant). When Diablo eliminates Vetter's wife, the mission becomes personal.
A Man Apart is riddled with revenge movie cliches, which helped it earn an 11% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
A mumbling tough-guy performance from Diesel also keeps it from registering as strongly as Diesel's The Fate of the Furious collaborator F. Gary Gray intended.
Before his Oscar-winning role in Ray, Hollywood didn't really know what to do with Jamie Foxx. Actually, it hasn't known what to do with him after, either, but that's a whole other story.
In the action-comedy Bait, he's cast as a fast-talking ex-con who has an electronic tracking device implanted into his jaw by the police so that he can lure a criminal out into the open. Needless to say, that's an absurd plot, which may be why the movie tanked so hard at the box office.
Bait was intended to play to Foxx's comedic strengths, while also establishing him as an action star. It obviously didn't quite work.
17 Walking Tall
The original Walking Tall, released in 1973, was a surprise hit. Audiences in the era of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War responded to the tale of small-town sheriff Buford Pusser, who aggressively rids his community of corruption.
In 2004, Walking Tall was remade, this time with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson taking over the role of Pusser from Joe Don Baker.
Separated from the political and cultural mood that made the original a hit, the new version feels like an unwarranted remake.
The movie also has an annoying slapped-together vibe, running just and hour and fifteen minutes, minus end credits.
By the early 2000s, Eddie Murphy's career was not quite as red-hot as it had once been. He wanted to make an action-comedy in the vein of his breakout hit Beverly Hills Cop. Teaming him with Robert DeNiro for Showtime probably seemed like a can't-miss idea. Unfortunately, it totally missed.
The film casts them as cops teamed up for a reality TV show. Rather than the usual traffic stops and domestic disputes, they end up dealing with a band of criminals who are in possession of a very powerful semi-automatic weapon.
Despite the intriguing Murphy/DeNiro team-up, the jokes in Showtime aren't very funny, and the action isn't particularly exciting.
If there's a common criticism of Bruce Willis's career, it's that he often plays characters who are extremely similar to each other -- and to John McClane, the cop he portrayed in Die Hard. That may be one reason why his 2005 action thriller Hostage faded so quickly.
Willis plays a former hostage negotiator whose family is kidnapped. The only way to save them is to procure a DVD containing encrypted files that could expose a right-wing militia's criminal activity. The hitch is that the disc is in a home where a different hostage scenario is taking place.
Hostage is so nondescript that it could easily be confused for a dozen other Willis movies.
14 Ninja Assassin
Ninja Assassin is an insanely violent 2009 movie produced by the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame. South Korean pop star Rain plays, as the title suggests, a ninja assassin seeking revenge against his former master. He teams up with a Europol agent trying to bring down ninja clans around the world.
Two big problems felled the movie during its theatrical release.
One is that the admittedly cool fighting scenes are surrounded by boring characters and a dull plot. The other is that Ninja Assassin was inexplicably released on Thanksgiving weekend that year. Not exactly a time when people are lining up for bloody cinematic mayhem.
13 The Marine
Before John Cena established himself as a talented comedy star in movies like Trainwreck and Blockers, he attempted to become the next big action hero. Part of that plan entailed starring in The Marine. He plays a recently discharged marine chasing after the lowlife criminals who kidnapped his wife.
The whole "saving a kidnapped wife" plot is incredibly hackneyed, having been used in literally dozens of other action movies. That prevents The Marine from standing out. Weak dialogue and an over-use of explosions helped to mark The Marine as a film far more concerned with mayhem than with telling a coherent, interesting story.
Thankfully, Cena's screen career survived it.
12 Bad Company
Be honest -- did you even remember that there was an action movie with Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins? We didn't just make that up! Released in 2002, it was called Bad Company.
Rock plays Jake, a ticket scalper who finds out from Hopkins' CIA agent character that the twin brother he didn't know he had got exterminated in a covert operation. Jake is asked to step in and complete his brother's mission, which involves getting a nuclear bomb before terrorists do.
Bad Company is probably forgotten because of timing.
It was bumped from its original release date after 9/11 took place. The terrorist themes still hit too close to home the following year.
11 The Recruit
The Recruit relies on an age-old formula in which a veteran teaches the trade of his profession to a newbie. In this case, the pro is a CIA agent played by Al Pacino, and the protege is technology whiz Colin Farrell. Together, they team up to figure out the identity of a double-agent within the CIA.
You can't deny that this movie has two magnetic lead actors. Pacino and Farrell are good together, with each matching the other's intensity.
The problem is the script, which relies on way too many conventional spy cliches. Even if you're watching The Recruit for the first time, you can't escape the feeling that you've seen it before.
10 After the Sunset
Sometimes a mediocre movie is actually worse than a bad one. Case in point -- After the Sunset.
Pierce Brosnan plays a jewel thief who retires to the Bahamas with girlfriend, played by Salma Hayek. When he hears about a valuable diamond being exhibited on a nearby cruise ship, the itch to steal again hits. Woody Harrelson co-stars as the FBI agent keeping tabs on him.
A heist thriller with big stars like Brosnan, Hayek, and Harrelson should be a blast.
Instead, their talents are wasted. The poorly-staged robbery fails to show the kind of specific details that make such things exciting to audiences, rendering it disappointingly bland. The whole film is a wasted opportunity.
9 Cradle 2 the Grave
Cradle 2 the Grave sounds like it should be a sequel -- you know, Cradle 2: The Grave. Maybe that weird title is part of the reason the public mostly ignored it.
This 2003 martial arts flick brings together an unusually eclectic cast. You've got Jet Li, rapper DMX, and comedian Tom Arnold, along with Gabrielle Union and Anthony Anderson. That provides some curiosity value, although it's undone by a mechanical plot involving a thief, a kidnapped daughter, and a Taiwanese government agent with an ax to grind.
All in all, ikt's not Jet Li's finest or most exciting action movie, by a long shot.
8 Shoot 'Em Up
For a brief time in the '00s, Clive Owen was a leading man. A series of unsuccessful movies quickly ended that, one of which was Shoot 'Em Up.
The film has an unusual approach, in that it's an action movie that's also a parody of an action movie.
Scenes are deliberately staged in an outrageous manner to mock the conventions of the genre. Owen plays a guy who delivers a baby during a shootout, then tries to protect the infant from the criminal (Paul Giamatti) trying to snatch it.
Shoot 'Em Up isn't a bad movie, but not everyone gets the self-referential approach, which undoubtedly hurt its theatrical performance.
7 Formula 51
Formula 51 gives Samuel L. Jackson a chance to do what he does best -- spew a lot of profanities and fight people. The movie, which went by the title The 51st State overseas, casts him as a chemist who has created a new recreational substance that he hopes will earn him a big payday. His search for a buyer instead turns up a trail of bodies.
Even though it seems to have strengths on the surface, Formula 51 has too much of the patented Jackson swearing, plus a story that's often very hard to follow.
The film earned just over $5 million in North America and quickly exited the consciousness of the moviegoing public.
6 Bangkok Dangerous
For a guy who's starred in some notable blockbusters and won an Academy Award, Nicolas Cage sure has a disproportionate number of forgettable movies. One of them is 2008's Bangkok Dangerous, a remake of a 1999 Thai hit. This one didn't fare as well as the original.
Cage plays Joe, a hitman in Bangkok attempting to snuff out four victims. As is often the case in these movies, a series of events conspire to make him the one who's in jeopardy.
Bangkok Dangerous received scathing reviews, earning a humiliating 8% at Rotten Tomatoes.
Audiences rejected it, too. The movie earned a mere $15 million in North America.
5 Exit Wounds
Exit Wounds is not a good movie, but it absolutely has some of the most bizarre casting you will ever see. Steven Seagal – whose movies still saw the insides of theaters back in 2001 – plays a detective trying to prevent some crooked cops from carrying out a major deal with a gangster, played by rapper DMX.
It's safe to say Seagal was in a major career downfall when this movie was released. His performance suggests he was merely cashing a paycheck, and his chemistry with DMX is non-existent. Together, they're stuck in a half-baked plot that employs a lot of cliches, leading to a "been there, done that" feel.
Paparazzi had the distinction of opening on Labor Day weekend in 2004. That weekend is a notorious dumping ground for movies that studios have no confidence in and don't know what to do with. It was entirely appropriate for this cinematic disappointment.
Cole Hauser plays movie star Bo Laramie. When a photographer (Tom Sizemore) chases him for a picture, causing his wife and son to be gravely injured, Bo sets out to exact revenge against the guy and all his colleagues.
Paparazzi was clearly intended to be some kind of warning from Hollywood to real-life paparazzi.
The movie is unintentionally hilarious, though, with weak dialogue and poor acting.
3 The Kingdom
The makers of The Kingdom probably thought they were going to win a lot of awards. This 2007 drama tackles a very important issue, specifically the American response to acts of terrorism against its people. A powerhouse cast was assembled that includes Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, and Chris Cooper.
What went wrong? For starters, the movie's politics are confusing. It can't decide whether to take a liberal or conservative stance, so it awkwardly does both. Trying to be political while also attempting to deliver commercial action sequences additionally blunts the force of the story's themes.
It's a good-looking film, but not much more.
Every so often, Hollywood cranks out a movie about vikings. They rarely go over well, probably because the subject matter isn't exactly commercial. The films all tend to look and feel the same, as well. Pathfinder found this out the hard way.
Karl Urban plays a viking who was raised by a Native American tribe. When a new group of vikings attacks, he leads the charge to protect his people.
Another reason Pathfinder may have failed to make an impression is that director Marcus Nispel was forced to chop out ten whole minutes in order to get an R rating. That doubtlessly muted the story's impact.
1 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
This forgettable dud has one of the worst titles of any motion picture, at any point in history. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is the rare movie to have a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Not a single critic gave it a positive review.
Antonio Banderas is FBI agent Ecks. Lucy Liu is DEA agent Sever. They initially feud before joining forces to bring down a rogue Defense Intelligence Agency bigwig who has a nifty new assassination device that can be injected into its victims' bloodstreams.
Incompetently staged action scenes and a needlessly convoluted plot conspired to rightfully tank this abysmal film.
How many of these forgettable '00s action movies do you remember? Tell us in the comments.
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