Action Stars Who Are Actually Really Terrible Fighters

Just because you film a movie fight scene, doesn't mean you're suddenly Bruce Lee for real. Just look at Steven Seagal who, as we've mentioned before, almost certainly can't hold his own in a real brawl. But who else, based on either the forehead-slapping nonsense in their own films, or the forehead-slapping nonsense they pulled in real-life, most likely sucks at fighting? Here's some prime candidates:

Mel Gibson

Interestingly enough, Mel Gibson's entire career (that's right, kids — he used to have one) began from losing the only fistfight he was ever in, that's available on public record. Gibson cared so little about his audition for the title role in Mad Max, that the night before, he got blackout drunk and got the snot kicked out of him, to the point his jaw was broken.

Amusingly enough, the casting director found Gibson's swelled head (from the fight — his ego-swollen head came later) added a gritty realness to the post-apocalyptic road warrior, and he got the part. So yes, one of the most iconic 1980s action movie stars got his start by losing a fight. Literally his entire career has been proof God has a twisted sense of humor.

Ralph Macchio

Even as he branches out to more serious work, Ralph Macchio is intimately aware of the fact that he will always be seen as the Karate Kid. He even named his son Daniel, for leg-sweeping's sake, which raises a lot of questions we unfortunately don't have time for in this article. He seems like a nice enough guy, in any case.

What was not so nice was his movie's signature move, the "Crane Kick." First of all, it probably should have disqualified him from the fight. Second, how was it even supposed to work in the first place? He spends seemingly hours getting into perfect Steve Martin King Tut position, while his opponent just ... stands there, waiting to be kicked in the face? Even those of you who have never been in a fight have to imagine there are few opportunities like that in an actual fight. Even Macchio himself admits that taking your hands out of defensive posture is a terrible move in a fight. So, that settles that.

David Carradine

We're only a few entries into this list and you may have already noticed a theme: "white guys pretending to do martial arts." Well, here's a second running theme: "actors skilled in an unrelated discipline that directors pretend equals fighting skill."

You probably know the story about how the show Kung Fu, a show about a Kung Fu master, originally pitched by Kung Fu master Bruce Lee, passed him up for Carradine, who knew zero Kung Fu but was a master of ... interpretive dance. Apparently, the two never even met each other. Carradine martial-danced his way through three seasons before even bothering to train for the martial art he was supposed to be portraying.

That was probably for the best, though, considering censorship practices of the time. On-set choreographer David Chow explained the limitations as follows: "ABC absolutely bans any more than three hits on a person, all kicks below the belt, more than two areas of bleeding on a single person, any pouring of blood (but dripping is ok), instruments entering the body, and any scenes of a man dying with eyes open." This explains why what should have been a gripping serial about a wandering monk in the Old West, more closely resembles a sleepy hippie dance-battling his way across the Burning Man playa to find his 'shroom dealer.

Pat Morita

Besides the Karate Kid franchise, Pat Morita has starred in a handful of other action movies, including Collision Course with Jay Leno, which seems like some sort of masochistic exercise to see how long you can go without wanting to punch Leno in the face. None of this translate to "can beat you senseless." Despite being universally famous as a karate sensei, he admits no formal training, and was actually almost turned down for the first Karate Kid movie, because the directors associated him too closely with his Happy Days character.

That scene in the movie where Morita's on the beach balancing on a post, practicing the crane kick? That was actually an extra (Darryl Vidal) wearing a bald wig and a fat suit. No, seriously.

David Heavener

Whenever you look at the credits of a movie and see that it's written, directed and starred by the same person, you know you're in for a beautiful disaster ride of a movie, like The Room.

Then there's David Heavener, whose movies are ... special. Many of them suddenly segue into music videos which, of course, he also writes, performs, and stars in. Most are based on crazed fringe revenge fantasies that should've gotten him flagged by the CIA long ago. He even teaches a course on acting, if you wanna be hypnotized by the flapping soul-patch of the director/star of such classics as Kill Crazy and The Clown Statue.

In the movie Lethal Ninja, he stars as the aforementioned lethal ninja. It must have been a bit of a blow to his tough-guy, kill-em-all sensibilities that he winds up getting totally owned by a man in a dress right in the middle of the film. To be fair, nobody seems to be able to fight in this movie, so that makes Heavener the most lethal of ninjas by default/

Andy Bauman

Actor/writer/producer powerhouse (yes, another one of these guys) Andy Bauman doesn't have a lot of work to his name. What he does have is Night Of The Kickfighters, and if what you can see from the poster isn't enough for you, we're not quite sure what to say.

Look, first of all, it's called Night Of The Kickfighters. Did they mean kickboxer? Then say kickboxer. Second of all, Bauman looks about as threatening and effective as a shirtless Alex Jones. Third, you get to watch him slowly slapfight with the Tall Man from Twin Peaks (or Lurch from The Addams Family movie, for folks born after 1989). It's got a little something for everybody, except fans of real fighters.

Kurt Thomas

Remember the movie Equilibrium and the whole achingly stupid concept of "GunKata" which was like kung fu, but also guns, but not really kung fu at all? Well, this isn't the first time they've had to force that particularly awkward portmanteau, and it went about as well last time too.

Kurt Thomas is a legitimate Olympic Gymnast, which is awesome. In 1985 however, he starred in the film Gymkata, which is not awesome. He plays an Olympic gymnast picked by government agents to compete in a winner-take-all international fighting tournament, unimaginatively called "The Game." That's actually pretty funny, though not for any reason they intended.

The movie's named after an imaginary martial art practiced by Thomas' character. Based on the fight scenes, Gymkata apparently entails doing a flip about a foot away from someone, after which they fall over for some reason. Also, there's spinning entirely around on oddly convenient bars just hanging over Middle Eastern streets, and pretty much him doing regular old gymnastics and people falling over. So he's gold medal in real life, but on-screen, he's a more Golden Raspberry.

Matthew Karedas

Fun fact: Matthew Karedas, the Samurai Cop guy, has actually been in a movie with Tommy Wiseau, the The Room guy. Surely, this is some sort of Tim and Eric-style prank, right? Nothing else makes sense.

But hey, we're not here to judge whether his signature "serial killer eyes peeking out of a Rachel from Friends hairdo" schtick is an act or not. We're here to judge his fighting moves and ... hoo boy, you just have to see this to believe it. His early movies are infamous for attempting to compensate for things like stunts and choreography and skill, by filming all the fight scenes in slow-motion and then speeding them up in print. The end result is about as convincing (and hilarious) as it sounds.

In Samurai Cop's climactic ("climactic") final battle, he swordfights and grapples a bearded hipster, improbably named Yamashita, who's wearing both a sweaty wifebeater and completely unnecessary rat tail. After the two disarm each other, they enter into a close grappling dance that may look familiar to folks who attend certain nightclubs named "The Eagle," or who spend their weekends watching albatrosses mate.

Richard Harrison

This final entry is the ultimate in "how did this even happen?" Actor Richard Harrison started out as a professional bodybuilder, not an unusual transition to the world of action movies. The unusual part is that he was cast as a ninja. A lot. Like, a stupid lot. Somehow, a fifty-year-old, white, musclehead ninja (who were usually small, light, and nimble, as per the job description) was such a desirable formula, Harrison wound up in nearly twenty films with the word "Ninja" in the title between 1983 and 1988. Harrison bogged down the mid-80s market for human ninja-based entertainment so much, they had to start moving on to other species (turtles, rabbits) to keep anyone's interest.

In action, he fights as well as you would expect from a middle-aged former bodybuilder trying to pump out four ninja movies a year. Wearing a full body suit with only your eyes and fingers visible makes it a lot easier for stunt doubles to step in and do your job for you.