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Hooksexup’s Action-Star Acting Matrix 

We plot the ratio of machismo to acting talent in Hollywood’s leading action stars.

by Kristin Hunt and Alex Heigl

On Friday, Marky Mark will once again crack skulls and glare through a feature film, this time one called Contraband. Despite generally appearing in dumb movies, Wahlberg occasionally gives surprisingly nuanced performances in more ambitious work like The Fighter or Boogie Nights. That got us thinking about the spread of machismo to acting ability among Hollywood's action elite. For the convenience of the scientific community, we've presented our findings in this easy-to-read graph.

Michael Fassbender

Over the last few years, Fassbender has beguiled millions with his seemingly effortless blend of intense physicality and serious talent. He's both a handsome arthouse star, and a tough guy who doesn't insult your intelligence. Machismo: 6 Talent: 7

Liam Neeson

The actor once known for playing Oskar Schindler has decided to spend his fifties kicking your ass. As Taken demonstrated, he can single-handedly rescue his idiot teenage daughter and take down a sex-slavery ring without blinking an eye. And then switch to gravitas-mode to play Narnia's resident Jesus-lion, Aslan. Machismo: 5 Talent: 8

Christian Bale

He fights villains and growls in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but also wins Oscars for playing deadbeat druggies. You know you’re special when you can drop jaws for dropping pounds in The Machinist and then believably best a horde of mobsters and evil lunatics. Machismo: 7 Talent: 7

Clint Eastwood

He's still the scariest squinter in Hollywood, but as he aged, Eastwood began showing a tenderness and range that you wouldn’t have expected from the Man with No Name. But in a film like Unforgiven, Eastwood displayed equal amounts of acting talent and sheer terror-inducing menace. Machismo: 8 Talent: 7

Clive Owen

Clive Owen has done sensitive and nuanced work in films like Gosford Park (he is English, after all). But he’s also starred in the I-can’t-tell-if-this-is-a-parody-or-not Shoot ‘Em Up and the most over-the-top part of Sin City. Children of Men was probably his best middle ground. Machismo: 6 Talent: 8

Vin Diesel

No one who renames himself "Vin Diesel" will ever be the toast of the Screen Actors Guild, though he did turn in decent-if-stilted performances in Pitch Black and Boiler Room. Diesel’s legacy as an actor mostly seems to be that he managed to make Paul Walker look expressive in The Fast and the Furious.
Machismo: 8 Talent: 3

Ryan Gosling

RyGos had a hell of a 2011. He added “Murder/Driving Machine” to his list of roles, building on the solid work he’d done in indies like The Believer. But he was also unbelievably sensitive, breaking up fights on the streets of New York and playing the ukulele. Whether he’ll lean a little more action-heavy remains to be seen, but whatever he does will probably be watchable. Machismo: 3 Talent: 7

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

As an actor, DTRJ has revealed a self-deprecating charm as an actor not immediately apparent in his earlier, more elbow-centric work. Check out his funny turn as a fidgety neurotic in Southland Tales; it's one of the few bright spots in Richard Kelly's overstuffed disaster. Machismo: 8 Talent 4

Sylvester Stallone

With Rocky, it looked like Sylvester Stallone was posed to become quite the triple threat. Then came Rumble Alley and a string of increasingly self-parodic roles. (Over the Top, anyone?)Then came Demolition Man. Today, he's firmly in self-parody mode (see The Expendables...or don't). Machismo: 9 Talent: 5

Bruce Willis

Is Die Hard the best action movie of all time? That’s up for debate (side note: it is the best action movie of all time), but it did cement Bruce Willis as a bona fide action star: odd, given that just a few years prior he was starring in Moonlighting. One Sixth Sense later, people are suddenly talking about Bruce Willis in a movie where nothing got punched. Weird. Machismo: 7 Talent: 6

Jason Statham

Jason Statham’s early roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch displayed a kind of rough-edged charm (and baldness) that easily could have made him a British Bruce Willis. Then he graduated into full-on action porn with Crank, and by the time he was uttering lines like “Next time, I'll deflate all your balls” in The Expendables, it was clear he wasn’t going to display the versatility we’d hoped. Machismo: 7 Talent: 3

Arnold Schwarzenegger

He may have been Mr. Universe, but that doesn’t make him a thespian. Not even his nuanced work in Kindergarten Cop could earn him some credibility. Machismo: 10 Talented: 2

Matrix-Busting ManHugh Jackman

We just don’t know what to do with this guy. One minute he’s Wolverine, the next he’s the Boy from Oz. He defies any and all easy categorizations. A wild card if there ever was one.

Commentarium (14 Comments)

Jan 13 12 - 1:27am
HipHop Hippo

No Nicholas Cage. I mean, he wouldn't on the chart at all, but at least a preserve a little corner in the negatives for his hilarious performances in "Con Air", "The Rock" and oh, um, "Drive Angry 3D". Such an action film

Jan 13 12 - 11:39am
Alex Heigl

Yeah that's an interesting point. For some reason, he didn't really even cross any of our minds, despite the fact he's been in a lot of standard "action fare." Maybe it's that ill-deserved Oscar.

Jan 13 12 - 9:13am

"Two sides! With Hugh Jackman!"

Jan 13 12 - 11:01am

c'mon, Vin Diesel voiced the Iron Giant. I know, not a stretch, but give him one more talent point for that.

Jan 13 12 - 12:34pm

Do you feel lucky, punk? No one here beats Clint's talent. I guess Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford and all the OO7 are off the chart?

Jan 13 12 - 12:40pm
Alex Heigl

Mel Gibson hasn't been an action star for ages. Harrison Ford is a good call, though. And a 007 chart would almost be its own project: that's not a bad idea, actually.

Jan 13 12 - 2:22pm

So can you fit a De Niro into this matrix? As he's gotten older, I'd argue he's played more one-dimensional tough-guys than aging Clint Eastwood.

Jan 14 12 - 12:02am
Grant the Architect

What the Hell? No Steven Seag ... oh, never mind.

Jan 16 12 - 1:09pm

I think that you shafted the Willis in points for talent...only slightly better than Stalone? Come on, in Pulp Fiction alone, he gets at least another point not to mention Luck Number Slevin, and even The Jackal.

Jan 18 12 - 1:30pm
Jimi Blackbird

Tommy Lee Jones should be on the list as well. He's certainly similar to Clint Eastwood in many respects.

Jan 18 12 - 11:19pm

Arnold's best performance is clearly in twins. I mean body mass index alone bro. Eastwood and Willis belong above Diesel, Johnson and Owen, unequivocally. Honestly this list is completely bogus without mentioning Van Damme and Segal. It's embarrassing considering their fame in the 80's/90's.

Jan 19 12 - 6:01pm

What, no non-white guys? And while it may need a separate page, there are some kick butt ladies too!

Jan 19 12 - 6:22pm

where's will smith?

Jan 19 12 - 8:15pm

where is Matt Damon for the Bourne movies,
and Daniel Craig for the new James Bond franchise.

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