End Of Year Review Part 1: The 10 Worst Films of 2020

Although you would be forgiven for thinking that 2020 only really had three months of notable film releases before everything went to hell in a handbasket, the movie industry took to the internet with most of their releases to varying levels of success with many studios selling their films to the various streaming giants from Netflix to Amazon and while Disney avoided buying anything to fill the gaps the pandemic caused but still shuffled certain upcoming releases to their online platform. That left the rest of us to fill our nights out in the comfort of our own home and online instead of in cinemas.

Not only did this mean that a large number of hidden gems I would have certainly missed in a normal year came to the surface but it also meant that a hungry audience had access to even more cinematic dross to consume. But before I highlight the 10 films I would have objected to even if it wasn’t 2020 and the world was on fire, here are a few that almost made it.

Dishonourable Mentions

Mortal

Nat Wolff in Mortal

Hidden among the bad acting, off putting special effects and questionable plotting is a story of genuine interest and pathos. That is why Mortal is so disappointing because it constantly alludes to meaning instead of ever seeking it out, always feeding a mystery that is neither interesting or relevant to what the film claims to be about. Starting by defining mortal as ‘A human being’, this Norway set story about an anti-hero with uncontrollable superpowers never gets into the nitty gritty of what it is to be human, too consumed by superfluous mythology that constantly halts a film already lacking in any real pace and for a thriller, that’s the ultimate nail in the coffin.

Read my mini review here.

In The Line of Duty

Aaron Eckhart in In The Line of Duty

Watched in the early days of lockdown, In The Line of Duty is an acknowledgement of the changing face of policing. It turns out, in this upside down world where left is right and hot is cold, police officers are now professional clowns. The Stephen C Miller directed actioner serves itself up as almost an action parody full of backwards villains, quippy misogynists and a police force with a shortage in much needed IQ points. If the film was meant to be a cop film as told by Marx brothers then it wouldn’t be near this list but considering it tells its story with such earnest commitment to a point buried under a wealth of unintentionally funny action and performances, by the end the joke wears thin.

Read my full review here.

Extraction

Chris Hemsworth and Rudhraksh Jaiswal in Extraction

This Netflix action film, produced by the Russo brothers after their success in the MCU follows a mercenary hired to rescue a drug lords teenage son from terrorists. Constantly fast paced and utterly mindless, Extraction is a slog through repetitive gunfights, ambitious but flawed one takes and maudlin backstory. While from a techincal standpoint, director Sam Hargrave has made a serviceable feature, it’s a glorified bloodbath of bodies and insulting racial stereotypes mixed in among save the day American jingoism. Unfortunately there are only so many times you can watch illogically named hero Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) butcher a man before you start to wonder, who is the real bad guy here?

Read my full review here.

Luckily these three films missed out on a spot on my final list of disappointing features to be released last year but here are the 10 that did.

The 10 Worst Films of 2020

10. Chemical Hearts

Austin Abrams and Lili Reinhart in Chemical Hearts

When I wrote about Chemical Hearts upon its release on Amazon Prime earlier this year I thought it was a film sinking in its own melodrama and despite dealing with some serious issues it was buried by them instead of using them to tell a decent story. What seems clearer now we have reached the end of the year is just how manipulative it really is, progressing a hero narrative that feels sickly and wrong and diminishes the films only good performance in Lili Reinhart. The fact it has a character who dresses like an Amish Ed Sheeran and it assumed that’s how people dress in high school was just another jab in the gut.

Read my full review here.

9. Fantasy Island

Lucy Hale in Fantasy Island

This Jeff Wadlow directed adaptation of camp 70s series Fantasy Island turns the story into an even more outlandish horror feature from Blumhouse (their 2nd release in February along with the vastly superior The Invisible Man), one lacking in the subtlety of the original series and considering it didn’t have any, that’s an impressive feat. Gone is the gravitas of Ricardo Montalban and the well intentioned series and its rotating door of colourful characters. They are replaced by self involved and poorly written ones that feel like played out horror motifs instead of people, each dealt one personality defining trait to show us that they too, like us, are human beings. Beautiful, empty human beings.

Read my full review here.

8. Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr in Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr’s first role after leaving the MCU was both behind (as a producer) and in front of the camera for an adaptation of Dr Dolittle, a film that grossly misunderstood the concept of double coding and how to appeal to the mature audience bringing their kids to see it. While youngsters would love it, with colour aplenty and some convincing CGI animals, adults got…fart jokes, and a colonoscopy of a dragon, because who doesn’t love a good bum joke. Dolittle established Downey Jr as a kids entertainer, not an actor and the film he found himself in felt closer to pantomime than genuine filmmaking.

Read my full review here.

7.The Last Thing He Wanted

Anne Hathaway in The Last Thing He Wanted

Dee Rees seemingly could do no wrong after the critical acclaim of Mudbound and the lesser known Pariah. That was until the Anne Hathaway stinker The Last Thing He Wanted, a mixture of existential monologuing and nonsensical political conspiracy all bound together by a truly shocking performance by Hathaway. This serves as the years biggest disappointment considering the pedigree behind the camera and in front but it never provided a point of entry for an audience constantly seeking answers and never getting any. Even if we did, you couldn’t understand them through the thicket of nonsense dialogue meant to give off an air of cool while effectively silencing any sort of plot.

Read my full review here.

6. Project Power

Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback in Project Power

The Netflix released non-superhero superhero movie has plenty of moving parts, a decent concept and some good performers behind it but it never really amounted to anything. On her own Dominique Fishback provides some much needed charisma to a film that falls flat not because of its story, there actually is one worth telling here but because it wants to be an action film but seems intent on keeping you away from it. The number of long takes where action takes place off screen as we rotate around a hiding individual or cut away in favour of something more mundane means that half of the films draw is rudely snapped from our clutches. It might be the film on this list with the most going for it sure, but it’s also the film that squanders the most potential.

Read my full review here.

5. The 2nd

Ryan Phillippe in The 2nd

Ever since his three season run on Shooter, Ryan Phillippe has degraded himself to low budget action features much like Bruce Willis has been for the last few years. It seems coincidental that Phillippe finds himself starring in this low budget Die Hard knockoff (its also set at Christmas), attempting to be the B movie answer to John McClane. What Die Hard had however was impressive villains, a director who never sign posted his breadcrumbs, instead letting them fall naturally into place and an engaged lead. Here it is the opposite, Casper Van Dien’s unnamed henchman is undeniably stupid, walking around with a cane like a 19th century nobleman one minute, gunning people down the next. Director Brad Skiba piles most of his plot into the first few minutes then forgets about all of it and Phillippe just looks bored. It took close to 40 years for Willis to reach this point, Phillippe has managed it in just under 20.

4. Artemis Fowl

Ferdia Shaw in Artemis Fowl

The 2nd entry that takes an acclaimed and famed childhood book series and shreds what made it interesting in favour of a bland uninviting kids film. Artemis Fowl for all his faults was a genius in the books, a kid of enviable ability and one who reveled in the adventures he found himself on. In director Kenneth Branagh’s hands Artemis is an entitled, spineless know it all, a cocksure faux intellectual without the ability to back it up. Essentially a bottle episode stuck in the same place for a painfully long two hours while proclaiming itself an adventure film, Fowl’s debut story is hobbled by a shocking lead performance by a badly cast Ferdia Shaw and a script that never really knows what to do with Artemis, apart from make him act superior, or his band of friends, a mixture of people either too playfully whimsical or obnoxiously serious. In short, its a fantasy film that never gets the chance to be fun.

Read my full review here.

3. The Tax Collector

Shia LaBeouf and Bobby Soto in The Tax Collector

Toxic masculinity, the movie. The Tax Collector is an arduous slog through director David Ayer’s worst impulses in search of his heyday. Trying to be the polar opposite of End of Watch, this time following a duo of criminals on their shift extorting the neighbourhood until someone starts encroaching on their territory, threatening a business they have spent years developing. Misogynistic, lazy in its character development (want your villain to be extra detestable, make him a fan of….human sacrifice?) and full of painful acting, especially from Shia LaBeouf who here plays some kind of vegan, hipster badass, shooting up the neighbourhood while discussing his keto diet plan in his downtime. The Tax Collector feels like a harsh reminder that Ayer consistently mistakes crude for dark, gratuitous for violent and grimy for gritty, making his latest an unpleasant and consistently crass watch.

Read my mini review here.

2. The Grudge

Andrea Riseborough in The Grudge

The Grudge for all its hopes of rebooting a much appreciated horror franchise does so by sapping the horror right out of it. Essentially an extended series of vignettes that feel more like torture porn than a serviceable story worth telling, the film seems to enjoy misery instead of using it to progress to any kind of meaning. Constantly flashing back to darker times, Andrea Riseborough’s central character feels like a bookend in her own movie meaning that by the end any sympathy or connection you might have to her just isn’t there. The Grudge is a reboot doomed to be forgetting in the mess of 2020 and personally I think that might be one of the few good things to come out of this year.

Read my full review here.

1. The Last Days of American Crime

Edgar Ramirez in The Last Days of American Crime

It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to Oliver Megaton’s bloated and visually beige The Last Days of American Crime. This slow burn crime caper constantly disappoints not only in its bland visual palette but its extensive list of phoned in performances, especially from Michael Pitt who argues the route to camp is in the volume of his voice, effectively shattering your eardrums so thankfully by the end you can’t hear what he has to say. Lumbered with a B plot involving a bored Sharlto Copley that honestly could have been cut for time without affecting a single piece of story, The Last days of American Crime comes in at a damaging 149 minutes and not a single one is enjoyable as you follow an unpleasant and hilariously titled gangster Bricke (Edgar Ramirez) through a heist that thinks it is a love story, with Megaton mistaking sex for love and Anna Brewster stuck with the most harmful female character of the year. It is easily the worst film of 2020 and a poor start to the decade.

Read my full review here.

I’m sure I missed some equally shocking features but these were the worst films I watched from this year. Let me know if there was a film here you enjoyed or one you didn’t as well. See you for my 25 Best films of 2020 next.

TSR

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